Park Librarian Twig George on NPR’s Science Friday

Jean Craighead George, Newbery Award-winning author of more than 100 children’s books, was also a mother to three, the eldest being Park librarian Twig George.

When Jean unexpectedly passed away in 2012 at the age of 92, she left behind an unfinished novel entitled Ice Whale. Twig, herself an author of children’s books, and her brother Craig, a bowhead whale biologist, were approached by Jean’s longtime editor, who hoped to persuade them to finish the novel. Not having read the book, the siblings were unsure of the work that lay before them. Twig had the idea of turning to Park’s Lower School Book Club, a group of seven fifth graders, to read through Ice Whale with her. It was the students’ excitement and encouragement that compelled Twig and Craig to tackle the project.

The fifth graders read through several drafts, providing notes and suggestions along the way. “In the end, the students all liked it,” Twig says, “and thought it had a lot of promise, so with their enthusiasm and good sense, we forged ahead.” The Book Club found time at lunch and recess to lend their energy, critical thinking, and their voices. “They were fabulous,” Twig reports. “They were incredibly good readers. They were very clear on what they liked and where they found the story confusing – and they were very specific about what needed to be done. They were also kind – and I could tell that this was not their first time criticizing other’s work – and they did it in a very supportive way! They would say ‘May I say…’ and ‘Do you mind…’ and a couple of them even gave me sentences to use. One even pointed out that the marine terms needed to be researched more because they weren’t the correct ones.” The group even helped Twig and Craig to rethink the story’s ending. According to Twig, working with the students was “…a real testament to the process that is taught at Park. In ways, they were more helpful than the professionals!” 

Ice Whale was just published on April 3. You can hear more from Twig and Craig on NPR’s “Science Friday” April 11 from 3:30-4:00. 

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