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Each fifth grade class at Katonah Elementary School had an opportunity to spend an hour with Rob Buyea, the loved writer of Because of Mr. Terupt, Mr. Terupt Falls Again, and Saving Mr. Terupt. His visit was part of PARP (Pick a Reading Partner)–a month-long celebration of books, authors, writing, and reading.
“I read Because of Mr. Terupt to the students this winter,” said Mrs. McBride, one of the fifth grade teachers whose class hosted Mr. Buyea. “The children loved it. It’s about a fifth grader class with a wonderful teacher, Mr. Terupt, who is hit by a snowball on the playground and knocked unconcious. The story unfolds through the perspectives of seven of his students.”
“We are still talking about this book,” she said, gesturing towards her white board which was covered with questions that the class would ask Mr. Terupt if they could.
Rob Buyea, it turns out, has a lot in common with Mr. Terupt.
Mr. Terupt was a wrestler before he became a teacher. Rob Buyea wrestled from four years old through college. He was also a teacher, and showed the students old class photos to prove it.
“My characters are bits and pieces of my former students and bits and pieces of me,” he told the class. “My memories and experiences are worked into the story. My imagination glues it all together.”
“When I was a teacher I loved classroom projects like counting blades of brass and dollar words. There was growing excitement in my class around reading and writing,” Mr. Buyea said. “ I dedicated Because of Mr. Terupt to my former students because they helped turn my writing switch on.”
“What does that mean?” he asked the class.
“I began to think like a writer,” he told them. “My stories and characters are always with me. I’m always paying attention, and thinking ‘what if?’ I always have a writers notebook with me, where I sketch, plan, write, revise, and capture ideas. My very best stories happen when I am far away from any desk. Think like a writer. Turn on your writer’s switch. Take yourself seriously as a writer.”
“Nobody but a reader becomes a writer,” said Mr. Buyea. “You learn to write by reading.”
Throughout his presentation, Rob Buyea recommended his favorite middle grade books to the students.
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
The Crossover by Kwame Alexander
All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook by Leslie Connor,
The Nest by Kenneth Oppel
Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead
Masterminds by Gordon Korman
The Thing about Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin
“When I write, I don’t know what’s going to happen.” Said Mr. Buyea. He showed the students his graphic organizer—a grid with chapters and characters, and a lot of crossouts, arrows, scribbles, and circles. “As I do the work I get new ideas. Don’t worry about getting it all figured out. Get busy.”
“Writing is rewriting. It took six years to write the first Mr. Terupt book,” he said. “The largest room in the world is room for improvement.”
Rob Buyea gave the students three more tips to becoming a writer.
Soar by Joan Bauer
Paperboy by Vince Vawter
Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan
Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk
Orbiting Jupiter by Gary D. Schmidt
Before he left, Mr. Buyea told the students about his newest book, The Perfect Score, which will be published next fall, and read the first chapter to them.