Popular Author Alan Gratz Visits AE/MS Virtually

Fifth and sixth grade students participated

By Kasey Schoch
Students in Ms. Dow’s fifth grade class are ready for their virtual meeting with Alan Gratz, a notable author. Students shown are: Seth Spaulding, Brody Hawks, Bria Tremblay, Mariana Shedd, Myles Gordon, and Audrey Leith. Caption and photo: Katie Dow

Alan Gratz, author of such notable books as Allies, Project-1065, and Refugee, has become a favorite author among middle school students all over the country. He is best known for his series of historical fiction novels, although he does have some other novels from outside this genre as well.

This February, he released his new book, Ground Zero, in time to honor the 20th anniversary of the September 11 attacks.  Mr. Gratz enjoys doing school visits with students, but the pandemic has prevented him from being able to do that for over a year.  Just as others have had to do, he changed his methods for visiting and has made them a free virtual experience for students.

On Tuesday, April 20, the fifth and sixth grade students at AE/MS were able to meet virtually with Mr. Gratz as part of their English language arts classes. The two grades were spread out into four different classrooms during the experience, and hundreds of schools logged in for the meeting.

During the visit, Mr. Gratz introduced another author, Ruth Behar, who recently released Letters from Cuba, which would be of interest to students that enjoyed Refugee (which the fifth grade at AE/MS had just finished reading as a class).

He then talked about his early years as a writer, insulting his first writing attempt as a child with his never released short story, Real Kids Don’t Eat Spinach. He insisted that Real Kids Don’t Eat Spinach will never be published because “it was just really, really bad.”  He said it could be a story within a book that the main character had written and tried to get published, but never a book by itself.

Students were given a brief tour of a handful of his novels and the historical background that goes with each of them. He then opened up the meeting to questions from teachers and students.  Through those questions, he confessed that his book Refugee is in the early stages of becoming a movie. He has no idea if or when it will be filmed, as COVID-19 has slowed down movie productions.

He also shared the writing process with students, showing them that it takes hard work and perseverance to publish a novel.  He even pointed out the many note cards on his back wall which was the outline for his next novel.  It was a bigger process than most students realized. 

The next book, according to Gratz himself, will be centered around climate change. It is certainly one that these middle school students will be eager to read.