Cindy Dobrez wrote a lovely post about Paul Zindel in honor of his birthday yesterday. Way back in the early 1990s I was already teaching fourth grade at my current school and while I figured Paul’s books were for older kids, I made a complete exception for The Pigman and Me. I was doing a memoir unit at the time and sought out every sort I could — say Lynda Barry’s comic collections (Down the Street being one) of her memoir-like strip, Eric Carle’s Flora and Tiger, and Bill Peet’s autobiography. After reading The Pigman and Me myself I decided to read it aloud to my fourth graders; it was a great success.
Now I knew Paul was the parent of kids at my school, but I had never met him until that fall when we ended up on a panel together about memoir. Right before we began he told me and another panelist that we were going to do a readers’ theater bit from the book. Of course we did. It was Paul Zindel, after all.
After the introductions Paul immediately mentioned that there had been a teacher at my school who had totally tormented one of his kids. A former colleague was in the audience and we both charged over to Paul afterwards to see if he would tell us the name of the teacher (although we’d guessed already — the teacher who was no longer at the school was legendary). Not long after that he came to my classroom and it was wonderful. I’ve been forever frustrated because he gave me a Loch Ness monster paperweight (because of his book on the same) which was stolen from my classroom that summer. Fortunately, I still have the Freaky Facts Club books he gave me.
Most of all, I have the stories he gave all of us. Say, the one involving cockroaches. Horrifying and moving all at once. Memorable for sure.