Mom’s vision of future comes true for new author
Growing up, Brooke Bessesen’s mother told her she’d probably be a children’s author someday. Bessesen’s response? “No way—I don’t think so.”
Now an adult, she is exactly what her mom predicted, and an award-winning one, at that.
While Bessesen wonders at the influence of her mother’s words, she believes the real reason she became a children’s author was to “connect with likeminded people.”
Elementary students, she explained, “are still passionate and curious about animals, wildlife and the world around them.” And earlier this month, she shared that passion with students at Kyrene de los Niños Elementary school.
When she began her presentation for first- and second-graders with a video of her encounters with white tigers, tarantulas and sea turtles, among other creatures, the room quickly erupted with oohs, aahs and cheers.
“I was surprised that she showed us more about real animals than she did about her books,” said third grader Riley Proctor, who now plans to write about the Arcticand the African Savanna in the fashion of Bessesen’s books Look Who Lives in the Desert and Look Who Lives in the Ocean.
Niños librarian Holly Johnson said that, after Bessesen’s presentation, “the classes were checking out nonfiction like crazy.”
Bessesen tells students that her books are a concoction of experience, knowledge and imagination, a recipe they, too, can use.
Zachary Z. Packrat and His Amazing Collections, for example, is inspired by Bessesen’s “packrat” parents, her work with actual packrats, and an article she read about ancient packrat middens.
Bessesen’s books are a great example of “bridging fiction and nonfiction,” said Niños librarian and teacher Sara Berns, who uses children’s books as models when she conducts a “Writers Workshop” with her second graders.
“We write, publish and present, just like authors do professionally,” said Berns. “It’s so great for the students to see a true, live author.”
During her presentation Bessesen shares early samples of her writing, including a three-sentence story with cross-outs, misspellings and malformed letters from when she was around six years old.
Bessesen reassured students that the way to get better at writing “is just like with baseball, piano, Spanish or anything else: Practice, practice, practice.”
Johnson said that Bessesen’s sharing of her progression as a writer really helps students “get the big picture of what it means to write and be a writer.”
Niños fifth grader Isaiah Carbajal admitted he was surprised by “how much [Bessesen] puts into her job to find out all the interesting stuff about animals. It takes a lot of editing and time to write.”
Ultimately, Bessesen hopes her presentations leave elementary students believing they can be good at anything with practice. She aims to give them “a spark of their own potential—that moment where they realize that maybe they could do something they dream of,” she said.