Students stage play based on children's author's book

March 16, 2009|By JANET HEIM

Read Across America Week kept a children's author and illustrator busy as he visited four Washington County elementary schools - Emma K. Doub, Williamsport, Pangborn and Lincolnshire.

Matthew McElligott's visit culminated with a full day at Lincolnshire Elementary March 5, where he led workshops, judged student artwork for a bookmark contest, signed autographs and watched a performance of a play by some of the fifth-graders.

The play, directed by art teacher Deborah Lesher, was based on "Bean Thirteen," one of the seven published books he has written and illustrated. He has also illustrated another - and a favorite of the Lincolnshire students. McElligott laughed and took photographs of the students on stage during the play.

After the performance, several students presented McElligott with a story quilt they made, with each quilt square representing his books.

"Holy cow. You made this? This is unbelievable. Nobody's ever made a gift like this for me. This is going to hang in my studio where I write, so I can be inspired," McElligott said.


The idea for McElligott's visit came after a Lincolnshire teacher saw him at Frostburg State University and thought the students would enjoy his visit.

During the workshops, McElligott talked about the process of creating and editing a book, as well as explaining how he uses the computer to help create his illustrations. He said he began his career as an illustrator, but it evolved into writing books, something he has done for 15 years now.

"This was even better than I thought," said Melanie Byers, Lincolnshire's library media specialist. "The students were really excited about him being here."

McElligott lives in Albany, N.Y., and teaches illustration at a college there. He was complimentary of the preparation teachers and students made for his visit, as well as their artwork.

"The kids responded well. They know the books inside and out. These kids really know their stuff," McElligott said.

Lesher and Byers have been planning the visit since the beginning of the school year. Lesher held student auditions for the play, and coordinated the creation of sets and developed art projects related to the visit.

"My creative mind went to work," Lesher said.

McElligott said he visits 30 to 40 schools each year and is working on two books.

To read McElligott's summary of his week in Hagerstown, go to

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