Book Readings: The main focus of our presentation is reading a Sparky or Dexter book “Sparky’s Walk,” “No Rest for Sparky,” “Sparky Coast to Coast,” “Sparky’s Big Race,” “The Great Candy Caper – Starring Sparky and Her Pals,” “Sparky Goes to School,” “Little Sparky 10 Spots,” “Sparky’s Silly ABC’s, “Sparky’s Wonderful Life,” or “Mr. Dexter’s Neighborhood” aloud to the students, using our 20 x 20 oversized copies of each book, which makes it easy for all the children to see (in the case of the “Dexter & the Rescuettes” chapter book, we read an excerpt from the book) . We also have a few other “props,” including pictures of Sparky and Dexter, a short video of Sparky, oversized versions of Sparky’s and Dexter’s neighborhoods, a map of Sparky’s race, and a map of Sparky Across the U.S.A. With “Sparky Coast to Coast,” we often use the map of Sparky Across the U.S.A. to provide a brief geography lesson, too.
We also discuss Sparky’s and Dexter’s backgrounds; their ties to Adopt-A-Dog (the animal rescue agency that saved her); a person’s value to the community and making a difference; and how everyone possesses a special talent. In addition, we try to provide insights on the writing process and how a book gets published. We usually end the session with a question-and-answer session, during which time the students can ask questions about the book or writing in general. If we have time, the students also can talk about their pets.
Three Sparky books are also available in Spanish-language versions, “El Paseo de Sparky,” “No Descanso Para Sparky” and “La Gran Carrera de Sparky.”
Duration: The presentation usually takes about 45 minutes, but we also can do a shortened version in about 30 minutes.
Age Range: Preschool through the elementary grades. Although the fourth and fifth graders may be at the upper end of the reading range (even with the chapter book), they do ask great questions, especially if they have writing projects. They also are able to understand the perils and consequences facing animals in shelters. At the lower end of the range, the preschoolers and kindergarteners can get a bit antsy at times, but I’ve found the topic of dogs and Sparky and Dexter can hold their attention for quite a while.
Writing Workshops: These are usually conducted on return visits to classes or with older classes. Basically, we choose a situation for Sparky and/or Dexter and then write an original Sparky/Dexter Adventure line by line on the blackboard, with everyone in the class participating. The students’ imaginations are allowed to run wild, making for some interesting stories. Some classes have put together their Sparky story into book form, and some students even have been inspired to go home and write and illustrate their own Sparky story overnight.
How Schools Have Tied Sparky/Dexter’s Adventures Into Their Curriculum/Activities:
Sparky/Dexter writing or drawing contests, with the winners receiving a Sparky or Dexter book.
Working closely with students’ writing projects, in which the students ask particular questions about the writing process and the author provides tips and encouragement to the young writers.
Teaming up with a local animal rescue agency, in which $1 from the sale of each book at the school is donated to that animal agency instead of Adopt-A-Dog.
Coordinating with a school’s Book Sale or Book Fair, with the author holding a book-signing session at the Book Sale/Book Fair.
Free Giveaways: Each student attending the book reading will receive a Sparky/Dexter bookmark, Sparky and Dexter collector’s cards, and Sparky and Dexter stickers. Prior to my visit, I also provide a set of Sparky/Dexter books to the schools so the children can become familiar with the stories. If the school would like to purchase additional copies of the books for their library or other classes, that is always appreciated.
Book Pre-sales: Most schools conduct pre-sales of the Sparky/Dexter books. I provide the school with flyers explaining my upcoming visit and order forms for the books, which are then sent home with the children. I bring the books with me and sign them personally to each student who has placed an order. In addition, $1 from each book sale is donated to Adopt-A-Dog or another animal rescue agency. I have teamed up with a number of animal organizations in different cities so the children can help animals in their own neighborhoods. However, let me emphasize that although a book presale is a welcome gesture, it is not a prerequisite for my visit.
Dexter/Speedy School Visits: Unfortunately, Sparky and Maggie the bunny (a character in the Sparky books) are no longer around to visit schools. However, Dexter is a wonderful, gentle dog that loves to come along and meet the kids. Also, if it’s not too long of a trip, Speedy the tortoise (another story character) is also available for school visits.
Web Site: The students can visit the Sparky/Dexter’s Adventures Web site, www.sparkyswalk.com, to become more familiar with Sparky and Dexter and their stories. There also are games and puzzles to play in the Kid’s Zone, Sparky and Dexter’s Photo Gallery, and even Sparky greeting cards to print out. Students can check the Events page to see when Sparky/Dexter’s Adventures will be coming to their school and send the author (or Dexter or Speedy) a message in the Kid’s Zone. The author responds to all inquiries on the Message Board.
What We Charge: Nothing, nada, zip. We just enjoy bringing the book directly to the kids, and maybe we’ll get a few book sales out of it and raise awareness of animal rescue agencies.