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Who better to review a kids’ book than a group of kids?


A special guest joined third-graders at Southold Elementary School last Wednesday: children’s author Robin Newman. 

Ms. Newman visited the students as a thank-you for their reviews of her new book, “Hildie Bitterpickles Needs Her Sleep.” Each of the school’s three third-grade classes wrote a review. One of them was printed on the back cover of the book and the others appear on Ms. Newman’s website.

“It was just a coincidence,” said Ms. Newman, a part-time Orient resident, explaining how a school so close to her home became involved with her book. “My publisher emailed me and I said, ‘Did you know I have a house in Southold Township?’ ”

Ms. Newman said that for each of her books — the other is titled “A Wilcox and Griswold Mystery: The Case of the Missing Carrot Cake” — the publisher reached out to schools around the world and gave students an advance copy to read, requiring that, in exchange, they write reviews for potential publication.

Only two reviews — including the one crafted by James Gilvarry’s third-grade class — were chosen to appear on the “Hildie Bitterpickles” book itself.

Mr. Gilvarry’s students wrote: “Bewitchingly funny, Hildie Bitterpickles’s story leaves kids howling with laughter while sharing with them a lesson about how to solve our problems and get along with others.”

Two other Southold Elementary third-grade classes, taught by Stephanie Suter and Danielle Maisano, wrote reviews that are posted on Ms. Newman’s website.

“The kids and teachers were so honored and excited to see their classes’ words grace the cover and website for all future readers,” Mr. Gilvarry said. Earlier this school year, the same three classes joined together to FaceTime with Marissa Moss, author of the “Amelia’s Notebook” and “Max Disaster” series as well as many history and picture books. It was Ms. Moss who suggested that students work on blurbs for Ms. Newman’s book, Mr. Gilvarry said.

Children’s author Robin Newman speaks to the class. (Credit: Nicole Smith)

The three classes then worked on their reviews individually, in hopes of having them featured on the book. Mr. Gilvarry had his students read the book and write their own reviews as an assignment. Then, each student read his or her review and the class worked together to combine them into one sentence to submit.

A few months later, the class got the exciting news.

“Ms. Newman contacted us and basically said, ‘Here’s my book. It’s all ready to go digitally,’ and when we got the digital version there was a surprise on the back,” he said.

During her presentation last week, Ms. Newman explained her creative process, laid out the steps from coming up with an idea to actually getting a book published and invited the students to ask questions. She also signed copies for the students.

Mr. Gilvarry said it’s important to have authors talk to students because it gives them an opportunity to ask questions and helps reinforce the idea of creating readers and writers.

“It’s been really a fun activity and it’s great to see the kids connect to a part in the publishing experience,” he said.

Ms. Newman worked as a legal editor for years before she leaving her job to pursue her dream of writing children’s books. She began writing in 2007 and, after an eight-year process, had her first book published in 2015.

“Hildie Bitterpickles” was published in April. Ms. Newman, who also resides in Manhattan, has two more books scheduled for release next year.

“I’m just very lucky,” she said. “Nothing is better than writing for kids.”

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Top photo caption: Third-graders in Stephanie Suter’s class got copies of signed books, one of which they wrote a review for that is published on author Robin Newsman’s website. (Credit: Nicole Smith)