MEDINA — On Tuesday, acclaimed children’s author and Medina native, Kate (Schirmer) Messner will visit the Author’s Note in Medina for a book signing and in-person discussion.
Messner will share some of his favorite picture books for families as well as the latest book in his History Smashers series, which is illustrated non-fiction of great interest to ages 8-12, aimed at busting the myths we sometimes learn. about the story when we’re young.
Messner recently won the prestigious Empire State Award for Excellence In Literature for Young People presented by the New York Library Association.
The Empire State Award is given annually and was first awarded in 1990. It is a one-time award given to a living author or illustrator currently residing in New York State. The award honors a body of work that represents excellence in children’s or young adult literature and has made a significant contribution to literature for young people. Youth Services librarians across the state submit nominations to an awards committee. The committee makes a decision which is then approved by the YSS Board of Directors.
“Some time ago I received an email telling me that I had won the 2022 Empire State Award for Excellence in Literature for Young People, and honestly I kept reading it again and again, particularly the part that explained how this award “honours a body of work that represents excellence in children’s or young adult literature and has made a significant contribution to literature for young people,” Messner said.
Some past authors who have received this honor in years past are people Messner has admired for years. The list includes Maurice Sendak, Madeleine L’Engle, Laurie Halse Anderson, Linda Sue Park, Jacqueline Woodson and Joseph Bruchac.
“These are authors whose work I read growing up, authors whose stories I read aloud to my students when I was a seventh grade English teacher, and authors whose chance to consider as mentors today,” continued Messner. “To see my name in this company was both amazing and humbling.”
Messner, who grew up in Medina and graduated from Medina High School in 1988, has written many titles for young readers, including award-winning picture books like Over and Under the Pond, The Brilliant Deep, and Rolling Thunder; novels that tackle real-world issues like Chirp, Breakout, and The Seventh Wish; mysteries and thrillers like Capture the Flag, Eye of the Storm and Waking Up Missing; the Fergus and Zeke series of easy readers; and the popular Ranger in Time chapter book series about a time-traveling search and rescue dog and History Smashers, books with a fun, well-researched quick story for kids who want the truth in an engaging and entertaining.
“I think what really made me a writer was being a reader. I loved reading when I was little. I was one of those kids who devoured all kinds of books, Beverly Cleary’s Ramona series to non-fiction about animals and natural disasters,” Messner said. “Being a reader made me curious about the world outside of my small town, and it also made me want to to share my own stories.”
Growing up in Medina certainly had an influence on Messner’s writing. She said it was there that she learned to love nature, which is the focus of many of her books for young readers.
“I spent much of my childhood fishing at Oak Orchard Creek, walking the Swallow Hollow nature trail, wandering among the apple trees behind our house on North Gravel Road, and catching crayfish in the little creek. down the hill from the orchard,” she says. “It’s also where I learned about the magic of small towns and how people come together to help and support each other, which is another great theme of my work.”
Messner said writing children’s books is a perfect job for someone as curious as she is. She loves being able to write about so many different topics, whether it’s exploring historical events or scientific ideas, or the kind of big questions that young readers ask themselves. Connecting with these readers in person is so rewarding for Messner.
“It means the world to me when kids tell me my books have turned them into readers,” she said.
The best advice Messner has for budding writers is to read a lot.
“Reading is a great way to learn storytelling, and reading aloud in particular teaches us to appreciate the music of big sentences and the importance of word choice,” she said. . “I also suggest that writers of all ages carry a notebook to collect ideas. I never go anywhere without my writer’s notebook. Whenever I hear something or see something interesting, beautiful, funny, scary, or unusual, I take note for myself.
Messner will be at Author’s Note, located at 519 Main Street in Medina, on Tuesday at 7 p.m. Prior to her visit, she provided free recorded school tours for K-3 and 4-8 students, which schools can use to share Messner’s presentations with their students.