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Author discusses his writing at Crisman

By Angela Ward award@news-journal.com
Nov. 15, 2013 at 11 p.m.


Students at the Crisman School got to meet one of their favorite authors on Friday, as writer Greg Leitich Smith visited with them.

Smith is the author of "Ninjas, Piranhas and Galileo," which most of the students in the school have read. He and his wife, Cynthia Leitich Smith, also co-wrote "Santa Knows," which children in the younger grades have read.

"I describe 'Ninjas, Piranhas and Galileo' as a romantic-scientific-comedy-courtroom-drama," Leitich Smith said of his best-known book. "It incorporates a lot of elements from my own childhood, like preparing for science fairs and learning more about your heritage."

The book is about three friends whose participation in a science fair leads to them ending up in student court at their school, he said.

Michael G. Webber is probably the school's most enthusiastic fan of the author. The 12-year-old has read several of Leitich Smith's books, including those that feature dinosaurs.

"I like that his books are about dinosaurs because I want to be a paleontologist when I grow up," Webber said. "It's really, really amazing that he's actually here to talk to us."

In addition to his work as an author, which includes several other books, Leitich Smith is also a patent attorney. He has degrees in both electrical engineering and law.

"I like writing children's and young adult fiction because kids and teenagers are experiencing things for the first time," Leitich Smith said. "That makes it more interesting to me."

Children in the later grades of elementary school or early grades of middle school are often falling in love with reading for the first time, he said, which makes it important for them to have access to high-quality fiction that meets their interests.

Crisman Director Laura Lea Blanks said this was the first time for the school to invite an author to speak, but he is such a favorite with the students that she wanted to give them the opportunity to meet him in person.

"We like his books because of the challenging vocabulary, excellent writing and dynamic characters," Blanks said.

Aidan Byrd, 12, is another big fan. He said he'd never met an author before and was excited that Leitich Smith was there to talk to them.

"I like the book because it's funny," Byrd said. "I especially like the part where the sneak into the atrium garden."

Leitich Smith was raised in Chicago and sets most of his books there, but he and his wife now live in Austin with three cats.

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