Selene Castrovilla

Award-winning author visits fourth grade

Award-winning author Selene Castrovilla loves uncovering little-known historical moments and bringing them to life. It’s what makes her novels about the American Revolution, among other time periods, so much fun to read.

Castrovilla shared some of those discoveries with Meadow Pond fourth graders during an author visit recently. The conversation supported students’ research and writing skills and enlivened the fourth graders’ study of colonial New York and the Revolutionary War.

A conversation about research and the writing process

Local history comes alive!

“Everyone knows that George Washington crossed the Delaware,” said Castrovilla. “As a Long Island resident, I was so excited to learn that he also crossed the East River--after the Battle of Long Island!" She recounted the story of how, in 1776, nearly 10,000 men in the American Army were cornered in Brooklyn by the British. General Washington ordered every available boat to be used to get his army to safety in Manhattan. Speed was imperative. Over the course of one night, boatsmen shuttled troops across the East River. They wrapped their oars in cloth to mask the sound of their strokes; a heavy fog gave them the cover they needed. The successful escape may have turned the tide of the Revolution in America’s favor.

The fourth graders connected with Castrovilla’s enthusiasm for history. They were already fans; they’d read several of her books with Meadow Pond Librarian Nick Grasso, including “Revolutionary Friends: General George Washington and the Marquis de Lafayette” and “Revolutionary Rogues: John André and Benedict Arnold.” 

"One of the biggest parts of the 'Revolutionary Rogues' takes place right up the road from Meadow Pond," said Grasso. "The area where John Andre was captured is on Main Street in South Salem. That grabs student attention! When we finished the book, student used their iPads to find the plaque that is in the stone wall marking where John Andre was captured."

Fourth graders learn the story behind the books they love

The students’ questions probed Castrovilla’s writing process

Castrovilla told the students that she follows the trail of research until she finds the hook—the question that creates the tension that moves the story along. “I always know the end of my books,” she added. “I write towards that end.”

One student asked her what her favorite part of writing is.

“I love finding the perfect word,” answered Castrovilla. “Each word has its own texture. I love sitting down with my rough draft and a cup of coffee and finding the perfect words.”

“Sometimes you have to scratch the whole thing and start over again,” said Castrovilla. “Don’t be afraid to do that—it’s part of the creative process.”