United States’ Children’s Poet Laureate visits outer East Portland grade school

See why the fifth-graders at Mill Park Elementary School were so excited by the visit of Mary Ann Hoberman and Linda Winston to their school …

Anthropologist Linda Winston and co-author United States’ Children’s Poet Laureate Mary Ann Hoberman get personalized direction to their speaking engagement.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
It was a very special day for an auditorium full of Mill Park Elementary School fifth-graders – a visit from United States’ Children’s Poet Laureate Mary Ann Hoberman, and co-author of her most recent book, Linda Winston.

While awaiting the pair’s arrival, Rolando Florez, the school’s principal told us, “This visit allows students to meet an important author, and shows them the importance of writing. And, writing is important, because it is the basic way we communicate, either on paper or with a computer.”

The visiting authors are made welcome with posters made by the school’s students.

The visitors viewed welcome posters created by Mill Park students upon their arrival, and then Hoberman stepped over and confided that the pair has been on a nationwide tour. “We have been going to bookstores, libraries, and schools, and reading from our book and taking questions from the kids.”

The book to which she referred is called “The Tree That Time Built: A Celebration of Nature, Science, and Imagination” – a celebration of Darwin’s Theory of Evolution.

“We had very little sleep; and eating meals when we don’t know if it’s breakfast time or dinner time,” Hoberman told the students. “This is almost the end of our tour.”

Hoberman tells her audience about their recent travels.

Hoberman said that she and her co-author both live on East Coast. “So, if we act a little spacey today, you’ll understand why.”

The author of more than forty books for children, Hoberman listed some of her other books: “A House is a House for Me”, “The Llama Who Had No Pajama”, “The Seven Silly Eaters”, and the “You Read to Me, I’ll Read to You” series. Her young audience seemed already to know the books well, judging by their response.

Co-author Linda Winston explains the work of an anthropologist.

Then, Hoberman introduced her co-author, Linda Winston, who explained, “I’m an anthropologist. This means that I’m interested in learning about peoples all over the world.

“One of the things that I like to do is to teach ‘English as a second language’. I taught for 10 years on a bus that was set up as a classroom. We would get eight or ten children at a time, from kindergarten to eighth grade, and I would teach them English. They came to the bus to learn as you do, but from many different backgrounds.”

One of the ways she taught English, Winston said, was to read Hoberman’s poetry. “Apart from that, I’ve known her as a friend for many years.”

This is the book Hoberman and Winston have co-written, and are promoting on their nationwide tour.

Speaks of new book with pride
“We’re so proud of this book,” Hoberman told her young, respectful audience. “And it’s such a beautiful book. It’s such a dream of ours come true. Linda thought of the idea in the year 2000; nine years ago. We talked with many different people to get their ideas, and showed it to many others asking for feedback. We’re so happy that after nine years it has been published.”

Hoberman then asked, “Have any of you heard of Charles Darwin? Can anyone tell me anything about him that they know? I’ll let Linda tell you about Charles Darwin, because she’s a scientist, and has written so much about him.”

The title of their new book, The Tree That Time Built, refers to Charles Darwin’s famous “Tree of Life” – his first sketch of an evolutionary tree describing the relationships among groups of organisms, Winston explained to the students. It’s been published in the double-anniversary year of Darwin’s birth in 1809, and the publication of “The Origin of Species” in 1859.

The November 6 appearance of the authors was arranged in cooperation with the Multnomah County Library.

The co-authors took turns reading from the book before they ended their visit by listening to selected passages of Hoberman’s books that the Mill Park students and chosen to read … to her!

© 2009 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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