‘History Smashers’: Author and Medina native sets sights on bookstore visit | lifestyles

MEDINA — On Tuesday acclaimed children’s author and Medina native Kate (Schirmer) Messner will visit the Author’s Note in Medina for an in-person signing and discussion.

Messner will be sharing some of her favorite picture books for families as well as the latest book in her History Smashers series, which is high-interest, illustrated nonfiction for ages 8-12, aimed at smashing the myths we sometimes learn about history when we ‘re young.

Messner has recently won the prestigious Empire State Award for Excellence in Literature for Young People presented by the New York Library Association.

The Empire State Award is given annually and was first presented in 1990. It is a one-time award presented to a living author or illustrator currently residing in New York State. The award honors a body of work that represents excellence in children’s or young adult literature and that has made a significant contribution to literature for young people. Youth Services librarians throughout the state submit nominations to an awards committee. The committee makes a decision that is then approved by the YSS Executive Board.

“A while back, I got an e-mail letting me know that I’d won the 2022 Empire State Award for Excellent in Literature for Young People, and honestly, I kept reading it over and over, especially the part that explained how this award ‘honors a body of work that represents excellence in children’s or young adult literature and that has made a significant contribution to literature for young people,’” Messner said.

Some past authors who received this honor in years past are people Messner has looked up to for years. The list includes Maurice Sendak, Madeleine L’Engle, Laurie Halse Anderson, Linda Sue Park, Jacqueline Woodson, and Joseph Bruchac.

“These are authors whose work I read growing up, authors whose stories I read aloud to my students when I was a seventh grade English teacher, and authors I’m lucky enough to consider mentors today,” Messner continued. “To see my name in that company was both amazing and humbling.”

Messner, who grew up in Medina and graduated from Medina High School in 1988, has penned many titles for young readers including award-winning picture books like Over and Under the Pond, The Brilliant Deep, and Rolling Thunder; novels that tackle real-world issues like Chirp, Breakout, and The Seventh Wish; mysteries and thrillers like Capture the Flag, Eye of the Storm, and Waking Up Missing; the Fergus and Zeke easy reader series; and the popular chapter book series Ranger in Time about a time-traveling search and rescue dog and History Smashers, books with fun, well-researched fast history for kids who want the truth in an engaging and entertaining way.

“I think the thing that really made me a writer was being a reader. I loved to read when I was growing up. I was one of those kids who devoured all kinds of books, from Beverly Cleary’s Ramona series to nonfiction about animals and natural disasters,” Messner said. “Being a reader made me curious about the world outside my small town, and it made me want to share my own stories, too.”

Growing up in Medina definitely had an influence on Messner’s writing. She said it’s where she learned to love nature, which is at the center of many of her books by Ella for young readers.

“I spent so much of my childhood fishing in Oak Orchard Creek, walking on the Swallow Hollow nature trail, wandering among the apple trees behind our house on North Gravel Road, and catching crayfish in the little stream down the hill from the orchard,” she said. “It’s also where I learned about the magic of small towns, and the way people come together to care for and support one another, which is another big theme in my work.”

Messner said writing books for kids is a perfect job for someone as curious as she is. She loves she gets to write about so many different things, whether she’s exploring events in history or ideas in science, or the kind of big questions that young readers wonder about. Connecting with those readers in person is so gratifying for Messner.

“It means the world to me when kids tell me that my books turned them into readers,” she said.

The best advice Messner has for aspiring writers is to read a lot.

“Reading is a great way to learn to tell stories, and reading aloud, especially, teaches us to appreciate the music of great sentences and the importance of word choice,” she said. “I also suggest that writers of all ages carry a notebook for collecting ideas. I never go anywhere without my writer’s notebook. Any time I hear something or see something that’s interesting, or beautiful, or funny, or scary, or unusual, I make a note for myself.”

Messner will be at Author’s Note, located at 519 Main St. in Medina, 7 pm Tuesday. In advance of her visit, she has provided free recorded school visits for students in grades PreK-3 and grades 4-8 which schools may utilize to share Messner’s presentations with their students.

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