Last week, taking a break from state exams, 5th graders at PS 165 presented the final product of a months-long Behind the Book program: a book entitled The S.S. Simon and the Mystery of the Missing Tablet. The class first met author Liz Levy in January and has since worked diligently to compose an illustrated mystery story. After reading one of Ms. Levy’s many books, Danger and Diamonds: Mystery at Sea, the class drew upon aspects of the mystery writing process such as the presence of a “red herring” in order to produce an original story. The students also used the artistic technique known as “cross-hatching,” which is used in Ms. Levy’s book, to illustrate their mystery.
The room buzzed with “oohs” and “ahs” at the decorations the students had put up for the celebration. The class had taped a sign reading, “Welcome to Our Publishing Party” on the board in addition to photographs of the students and Ms. Levy during the creative process.
Teacher Ms. Morales explained to the visitors that the discussion of Brazilian culture in the book – a subject the students had been studying during the year – was accurate and the class had been able to integrate their knowledge from several sources into this comprehensive story. By weaving a tale that included both historical and cultural aspects, the class learned how to discuss multiple subjects through creative writing.
The celebration included Liz Levy and her editor, Nancy Mercado, as well as several parents. After Ms. Levy spoke briefly about her experience working with the class and presented the newly completed book, the students took turns standing and reading their story aloud. The students’ excitement was palpable as they snapped photos of their fellow classmates and awaited their turn to read aloud. Then, the 5th graders had the opportunity to eat, socialize, and examine the finished book.
The publishing party was the young authors’ first time seeing the book, and they were impressed by its professional appearance. Some students flipped through the class copy of The S.S. Simon and the Mystery of the Missing Tablet and eagerly pointed out the pictures they had drawn. Many students had also brought their copy of Danger and Diamonds: Mystery at Sea, which they asked Ms. Levy to autograph, while others requested to be photographed alongside her. There were cupcakes, juice, and Behind the Book bookmarks for all!