He’s color blind. He’s artistically challenged. And he was a child who couldn’t read in fourth grade.
How, then, did Gary D. Schmidt come to stand before us at the Mazza Museum of Art this morning as a Newbery Honor-winning author? Because a fourth grade teacher took a personal interest in him. She gave him books, even if they were considered too immature for his age level. She gave him confidence. “She gave me words,” he told us. But even as a young adult who could read, he wasn’t at all sure what he would do with those words. An interaction with a Monet painting at age 18 changed his colorless view of the world. And now, he uses the colors of Monet to color his words as he writes.
So, what if? What if a fourth grade teacher hadn’t invested her time in a struggling fourth grade reader? What if Gary Schmidt hadn’t touched a Monet? Would we have Wednesday Wars? Would we have Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy? What about Okay for Now? Or his newest book What Came from the Stars? I doubt it.
The amiable Gary D. Schmidt greets a new friend at the Mazza Museum.