A piece of 826LA history: back in the mid-2000′s, we were lucky during our first year of operation to work with Broadway Elementary on Broadway and Lincoln for our first successful run of our Southern California spin on the classic 826 Valencia Storytelling & Bookmaking field trip.
On that and other projects in 2005 like the Mayor’s Day of Service, we were thrilled to partner with Broadway’s dedicated public school faculty and incredibly charming English language learners to make connections between students and their tutors, the kind that we think feel so good. Since then, both 826LA and Broadway have grown in ways neither of us ever would have imagined; they, for instance, have a young but acclaimed Mandarin immersion program, while we’ve edited a book with Alice Waters and had a blast with Judd Apatow and just explored.
Things came full circle today, when Rae Cullen’s 1st grade students in the acclaimed Mandarin immersion program of, yes, Broadway Elementary took a clear-weathered walk to 826LA in Venice to visit the headquarters of “Barnacle & Barnacle Publishing.” Once they arrived at the decommissioned police station structure where they sat down, 1st grade met a sharp-eyed “professional taker of notes,” a slightly bumbling typist, a frantic illustrator, and a harried managing editor. This cast of characters showed Broadway’s students that there were a few simple steps to writing a story, and as chance would have it, the snappy Mrs. Barnacle needed two dozen books from unpublished, original authors that very morning!
Fortunately, the 1st grade writers had enough creativity pent up in their adorable bodies and able brains to come up with Willie and Max Try to Save Their Vulture. It’s a picture book about an awkward girl named Wille who lives in the Museum of Natural History’s taxidermied vulture exhibit but has never seen a real vulture because a “perpetual torando” raging in a circle has trapped her inside the gallery walls. Luckily, meeting a wandering child named Max on a mission to find his parents gives Willie an excuse to get out of her sheltered existence (a feat she accomplishes with a racecar, #65), and soon the two kids are in a hurricane of trouble, literally. Their adventure is plenty of fun for the book’s reader, who gets to follow Willie and Max as they encounter zombies, magic, danger, and New York City.
We could tell you more, but suffice it to say that the Broadway students wrote such a good yarn that Mrs. Barnacle mercifully abandoned her original plan to fire all the adults. Even better, every Broadway student took home a book that Mrs. Barnacle approved, including three beautiful drawings and a page of original ideas. We had so much fun working with the Broadway crew, and with the busy lineup of field trips that we have planned for the spring ahead, our centers in Venice and Echo Park will certainly not be seeing the last of the oft-cantankerous (but occasionally-benevolent) Barnacles.