The Jewels of Haywood Elementary School — Part II

Otis was overcome with anticipation (and a clear need for even more loving) as we prepared for our second visit to the fabulous Haywood Elementary School.

(Click here for the Part I recap of our first visit.)

To Haywood we go!

To Haywood we go!

Upon our arrival, the ever-gracious, awesome teacher, Miss Jan Crowder, welcomed us to her familiarly colorful, inviting classroom, where we were consumed with hugs and giant smiles, like friends of a lifetime.  And by now, we are!

For this trip, we brought a small entourage… my husband and perfect partner-in-adventure (Robert), my daughter (Ella), my oldest son (Paul Kent), his very cool pal (Noah), and of course, Otis and me.  I could hardly wait to introduce my new friends from around the world to my crew.  It would be a great morning, I just knew it!

Reunions and Introductions! From left, top row: Musharaf, Ella, Miss Crowder, Paul Kent, me, Noah and Robert. From left, bottom row: Fatema, Martin, Omina, Shing, Rayan, and Otis!

Reunions and Introductions!
From left, top row: Musharaf, Ella, Miss Crowder, Paul Kent, me, Noah and Robert.
From left, bottom row: Fatema, Martin, Omina, Shing, Rayan, and Otis!

We arrived a tad bit early, for we wanted some special moments with Miss Crowder and her class.  I wanted each child to know how much I will always treasure their stories they wrote for me. (See Part I)

Would Rayan feel calm in petting Otis this time?

Would Martin’s smile make my heart jump again?

Had Shing learned even more English skills?

Would Omina’s eager eyes still be sparkling?

And sweet Musharaf… would he be afraid of Otis…?

And what about Fatema, who had been absent during our first visit… could we meet her?

All in a whirlwind of introductions and how-are-you’s, my wonderings were answered: Rayan’s confidence glowed… had he grown already?

Martin smiled, and my heart jumped and melted all at the same time.

Shing carried my basket of books and chatted like an old chum.

Omina met me with arms outstretched, full of compliments and stars flashing in her eyes.

Musharaf… no fear, my friend… no fear!  He approached Otis with bravery, hand outstretched, petting him with a gradual crescendo’s release of a boy’s love, like droplet after droplet of waters pushing on the gates of a dam, bursting open because they cannot hold tides that flow forth to drown fears.

And Fatema from the country of Jordan, a pleasure to meet, charmed us with immediate friendship and her outgoing personality.

This world-class family of students and their beloved Miss Crowder led us outside to Haywood’s amphitheater, where 200 first graders and their teachers awaited our arrival!

A sea of oooo's and ahhh's from Haywood's wonderful first graders, anxious for Otis to take the stage!

A sea of oooo’s and ahhh’s from Haywood’s wonderful first graders, anxious for Otis to take the stage!

Where to begin, with 200 wiggly first graders?  ADJECTIVES!  We talked about our great big minds, and our own singularly awesome yarns that we weave with every choice we make. A plane or two flew overhead, and we talked about how HIGH and BIG and FAST and LOUD it was, and how WIDE its wings were.

Who has an imagination?  Who has a story?  That’s right… WE ALL DO!

Both hands up... our imaginations are THAT big!

Both hands up… our imaginations are THAT big!

After revealing the story of how Otis came to our family (see Ancestry of Otis), and how the book came to be (see Synopsis), we read a chapter from Otis Goes to School: “The Playground.”  This particular passage finds Otis knee-deep in his secret school days investigations, observing his best girl on the kindergarten playground.  She is Queen of the Clover for the day, sporting a crown of clover blossoms tied by her maids of merriment.  (And off to my right, another clover queen with a chocolate brown ponytail and a baby blue shirt patiently listened and tied her own crown together… you can see the beginnings of it streaming down from her right hand, in the bottom left of the picture above.)

We read about Otis taking his own turn to zoom down the slide, catching playground zephyrs (see Vocabulary of Otis) in his flapping lips, landing with pride and pomp and circumstance befitting a Clover King, smiling all the way.  We applauded each other, promised to keep dreaming and to put our summer stories to paper, and asked and answered a string of thoughtful, intriguing questions.  This crowd brought their A-game!

And then, they formed a sight that I will always recall with amazement… in Otis Goes to School, Otis observes a “winding caterpillar” of kindergartners moving together in a line, to and from the playground.  On this day, at Haywood Elementary, that very phenomenon came to be, with Otis at the front of the line this time…

That's a lot of loving for one special dog who just happens to deserve all the petting these precious children had to give.

That’s a lot of loving for one special dog, who just happens to deserve all the petting these precious children had to give.

IMG_8165

Kids always love to pet Otis, and they love Robert's laugh!  Lots of love, just all the way around.

Kids always love to pet Otis, and they love Robert’s laugh! Lots of love, just all the way around.

These 1st graders were naturally, easily, abundantly friendly and happy.  They high five’d with gusto, hugged without holding back, and shared the light of the world with me and my crew.  By the end of our visit, I had heard from quite a considerable majority of the students that their summer plans now include storytelling and writing, and reading about Otis!  That’s a music-to-my-ears way to end a school visit.

I expect wild creativity and plots that ring true for untarnished young hearts.

I expect the final point of punctuation to be positioned post-tale with pride and purpose.

I expect a lot, because these kids can do it.  These children have a fantastic fire within, and they have the ability to follow their own “what if’s.”

Write on, Haywood 1st graders; write to your heart’s content, with all the adjectives you can conjure up, and then… oh please, and then… do let me read your stories!

And of course, lunchtime called again.  We stretched our goodbyes back through the halls, past several grades’ worth of winding caterpillars, through the front office and out to the parking lot.

IMG_3216IMG_3219Before coming to Haywood, I had no idea what a jewel was tucked into a quiet little Nashville neighborhood.  There is something special about this school, something vibrant and so alive. There is worth and promise and love and lots and lots of good in this school.  There was a display of appreciation for others amongst these students.  They saw their similarities before their differences… and the differences they observed, it seemed they celebrated.  Would that their unintended example be a pattern for us as adults, for our country, for our leaders and the leaders of this world that is so near completely represented within the walls of Haywood…

To see through the eyes of a child, to love with the boundless capacity of a child… we are all born with those gifts.  If we seek the most beautiful words we can find, put them to use in telling our stories, and listen to others as they craft their own, we will experience the kind of joy that lives and breathes and beats in the hearts of Haywood.

Haywood CollageI am so thankful that Haywood is a bright new thread in my ever-lengthening yarns.  I hope that the fall season finds us making plans for more fun together.

But for now… I wish you the greatest, most fun-filled, adventure-packed, water-park-ing-est, popcorn-and-movies-and-bicycles-and-ice-cream-and-firefly-catching-and-porch-sittin’-and-tall-tale-ing-est summer of all!  And you can write.that.down.

THANK YOU HAYWOOD!

THANK YOU HAYWOOD!

(Please click here to read Part I of The Jewels of Haywood Elementary School) 

 

 

Spreading the Words…

Join me in supporting Metro Arts!

By the Fall of 2014, the Bellevue Library in Nashville, TN, will be the home of two inspiring, professional art projects.  Artists’ concepts from all over the country were considered for  these creations.  Great Beginnings, by Beverly Stucker Precious, was the chosen concept for the library’s new outdoor classroom, and it involves the idea of a “learning tree,” with opening sentences from literary works woven right into the branches.

The opening sentence of "Otis Goes to School" could very well be included in this inspiring work of art.  Thank you for nominating us!

“Great Beginnings,” by Beverly Precious. The opening sentence of “Otis Goes to School” could very well be included in this inspiring work of art. Thank you for nominating us!

How creatively AMAZING!

Ms. Precious is currently seeking nominations from favorite first sentences to be included in her learning tree, and if you see fit, I would be honored if you would take a moment to submit the following opening sentence of Otis Goes to School, for her consideration:

It was Autumn… the air was crisp and the leaves were changing colors before falling to decorate the grass with their crunchy-ness.

Can you feel the cool hints in the fall season’s air?  Can you see the bright green leaves of the maple changing to sunshine yellows, and then to twilight oranges, and lastly to fiery reds… finally releasing their stemmed grips and spinning in their one and only chance to dance on the breeze, landing silently on the pin-tops of grass blades, crunching beneath the spritely feet of children celebrating a golden afternoon…?

If you see the picture painted within the opening sentence of Otis Goes to School, if it makes you want to read more, if it makes you smile or touches you in some memory tucked into your heart’s treasure chest, then please nominate us to be included in Ms. Precious’s masterpiece, to be included in the library’s artistic inspiration of budding imaginations.

CLICK HERE to read about the art projects coming to the Bellevue Library, and to include Otis in the nominations.  VISIT the Metro Arts ONLINE SUGGESTION BOX, and complete the very short form.  You can cut and paste the opening sentence of Otis from the quote above.  It takes just a minute or so, and you will be supporting the library, the arts, and Otis Goes to School!

Thank you so much for including us in your busy schedules.

Blessings and barks to you for a beautiful day ahead!

 

 

New Cover for Otis Goes to School

It’s a brand new day, new spring season, new month of April… there is no better opportunity for a fresh look for the cover of Otis Goes to School.  We are planning to look our best for the upcoming Alabama Book Festival.  Here he is in all his gentlemanly, white-fur-tie glory… ready to put his most dapper paw forward:

OGTS new cover pic

 

And to top it off, Otis Goes to School is officially published!  We will be pitching the book to various bookstores and libraries, so if you have a school or favorite book nook that you would like to suggest, we’d love to see this pup on as many shelves this world has to offer.

Just comment here, or send me an email at ashleybramlett.author@yahoo.com.

Published by Ashley Nicole Bramlett

 

In addition to the new cover, Otis has a couple of new photographs, kid-friendly fonts and paragraph breaks and glossary words featured in bold within the text.  Otis and I would love to sign a copy for you and your children.  Order your copies today!

As always, we are so grateful to everyone who has shown support and interest in Otis Goes to School.  We are looking forward to the days ahead… truly, may they be “dog days!”

Woof-cerely yours,

Ashley (ashleybramlett.author@yahoo.com)

On sale at Fox’s Donut Den!

True words from the now-posted Chapter 5 excerpt of Otis Goes to School:

“As patience usually does procure perfect timing, so did Otis await the proper opportunity.”

Saturday was a great day, as Otis Goes to School was part of Saturday Morning Storytime at Parnassus Books in Green Hills.  And the blessings, as usual, were even beyond our expectations, as Ella and the Little Red Wagon was also included!  A post with information on this four-part series is coming soon.

For now, please enjoy some pictures from our debut… and for those of you asking where to buy a copy of Otis, it is now on sale at Fox’s Donut Den!  That’s the delicious, Nashville, Tennessee, landmark just around the corner from Parnassus.  So while you are out shopping, be sure to stop by, grab the yummiest apple fritter you’ll ever taste, a cup of hot coffee, and a copy of Otis!  THANK YOU Donut Den, for your amazing support!

This first photograph collage is truly special, as it was put together and shared with us by our oldest son’s wonderful third grade teacher, Mrs. Sanders.  She was one of many who came to show their support and excitement over Otis, and I am just eternally grateful for everyone who could make it out on such a cold morning, and to those as well who could not attend, but sent their loving thoughts and words our way.  Otis is glad to know he has such loyal fans!

We are so grateful to Mrs. Sanders, our oldest son's third grade teacher, for putting together this beautiful reflection of our morning at the bookstore.  Thank you!

We are so grateful to Mrs. Sanders, our oldest son’s third grade teacher, for putting together this beautiful reflection of our morning at the bookstore. Thank you!

The children's area was full!  Ella and the Little Red Wagon was a hit, and it was such a joy to introduce Otis to the youngest of Nashville readers.

The children’s area was full! Ella and the Little Red Wagon was a hit, and it was such a joy to introduce Otis to the youngest of Nashville readers.

Be sure to stop by Fox's Donut Den in Green Hills and pick up a copy of Otis Goes to School!  Thank you, Mr. Fox!!

Be sure to stop by Fox’s Donut Den in Green Hills and pick up a copy of Otis Goes to School! Thank you, Mr. Fox!!

We are excited about plans in the works to bring Otis Goes to School to other bookstores nearby, and to schools as well!  Third Graders at Lipscomb Academy will be enjoying the adventures of this lovable pup very soon, and we will be sharing details of a book signing coming up next month.  Thank you so much for following along with us on this journey.  Be sure to check out the excerpt from Chapter 5, and don’t forget the Glossary for critical readers!