An update from author Peter Lerangis:
Well, I'm home for a few days before heading off to the Windy City (Chicago). I'm pretty winded myself, but in a good way. A GREAT way, actually. It's been amazing to see the numbers of readers hooked on Amy and Dan's search for The 39 Clues. I visited a LOT of school groups on the West Coast, and wherever I went, I met students and teachers who were fun and enthusiastic and full of good, sharp questions.
But nothing quite prepared me for Mr. Bentz, Ms. Campbell and the Skyline School in Solana Beach, CA.
This visit was scheduled last on the West Coast leg of The 39 Clues Double-Dealing Tour. We'd seen the Skyline kids and their teachers, Michael Bentz and Ms. Campbell, in a video feed last December (the day of the webcast with Whoopi Goldberg and Gordon Korman). Their energy and passion for The 39 Clues was impressive. Mr. Bentz had even integrated the books into the school's curriculum. Well, we suspected they'd planned something for my visit last Friday morning, because when we called to say we were on our way, Mr. Bentz asked us to delay a bit while they "prepared." Uh-oh.
All three of us — Larry (our author "escort"), Charisse (the superhuman Scholastic publicist), and me — heard the noise as we approached. A lot of noise. We could see kids pouring out the door. The parking lot had been emptied and marked out with traffic cones — boundaries for the kids, a sweeping "approach lane" for our car. Soon hundreds of students, K-6, thronged right up to the cones, chattering with anticipation. Behind them, my name was plastered all over the school! The last time that happened was in the 1960s when Lumpy Kartunis scrawled some nasty graffiti about me on the Bayview Avenue School wall. But this was the opposite — a big WELCOME PETER LERANGIS!
When we finally came into view . . . pandemonium. A deafening roar. Kids shrieked, leaped, waved wildly, brandished posters. Uh . . . wait. Did they think the Jonas Brothers were in the car? No! The kids were in costume — Dan and Amy Cahill, Nellie Gomez, the Man in Black, Jonah Wizard, Jonah's Blackberry-toting dad, even Saladin. Two kids had dyed their hair red and were dressed as . . . red snappers (Saladin's favorite snack)! As Larry slowly drove through our "lane," I waved to the kids and Charisse recorded video. Then my cell phone rang — my college-student son, from Ohio, with an urgent car question. As I shouted advice about oil changes over the din, Charisse looked at me in utter bewilderment.
Then Larry pulled to a stop . . . and we were mobbed. So I did the only thing a self-respecting writer could do. I jumped out and gave everyone high-fives. (Traffic cones? Forget it!)
Well, we spent the whole day at Skyline — talking about The Sword Thief, investigating theories about The 39 Clues, admiring costumes and awesome art projects, participating in a bicoastal Q&A with editors Rachel and Mallory via live video feed into a classroom. We ate lunch with the winners of a trivia contest, one of whom had created Cahill-branch pins for all students and a special 39 Clues pin for me! We drank from "For Cahills Only" water bottles, and afterward I signed hundreds of books and got to meet every student personally. I saw the way Mr. Bentz and the entire school staff and teachers had brought learning to life with the adventures of Dan and Amy, and how The 39 Clues had helped make art, problem-solving, creative writing, and history cool.
It was one of the most exhilarating days of my life. Charisse and I have had to email each other just to confirm that it wasn't a dream! Thank you, Skyline. And may the Clues be with you!
Cheers from New York.