Maine Author Visits With Local Students

By Jayna Smith

Students at Woodland Elementary School enjoyed choosing a free book from Bess the Book Bus and meeting with Maine author Cynthia Lord.  Cynthia is pictured here signing posters and bookmarks for the students.  (Photo provided by Billie Jo Jack).

Last Wednesday, a fun filled day took place at Woodland Elementary School with a very generous connection between Jennifer Francis, founder of Bess the Book Bus, and fifth grade W.E.S. student Brianna Jack, founder of Maine Books for Maine Kids.  Bess the Book Bus is a mobile literacy outreach organization started in 2003 in memory of Jennifer’s grandmother Bess.  Nana Bess would take Jennifer on frequent library visits and inspired her love of reading.  Maine Books for Maine Kids was started by Brianna, an avid book reader, last year and allows other children in Maine the opportunity to share her love of books.  

Jennifer heard about the wonderful things Brianna does for other children, including her weekly story time at the Woodland Public Library, and began sending boxes of books to Brianna to donate to area children.  Brianna’s mother Billie Jo Jack said, “Along the way, Brianna had the idea of Bess the Book Bus coming to her school.”  

Jennifer was excited to make Woodland Elementary School one of Bess the Book Bus’ stops and offered another spectacular addition. She would arrange to have friend Cynthia Lord, an award winning children’s author from Brunswick, accompany the book bus.  Each year, Cynthia travels with Bess the Book Bus choosing two stops—typically libraries.  “This year was unique,” Billie Jo explained, “Cynthia wanted to meet Brianna and do something special for the school.”   

Students and teachers alike were pleased to have Cynthia as a guest.  Cynthia read two of her books to the Pre-K and kindergarten students at Woodland Elementary School who also got to hear why she became an author.  The first, second, and third grade students also got to hear two of her books and were impressed that one, Hot Rod Hamster Monster Truck Mania, has not even been released yet and won’t be until 2014.  Writing lessons were presented by Cynthia to grades four, five, and six, and discussions on her two chapter books Touch Blue and Rules took place among those students.  

The special presentation ended with every student receiving a free book to take home from Bess the Book Bus.  Each was able to choose from among 300 books.  Cynthia donated to each teacher a copy of her book and provided students with autographed posters and bookmarks.  

Maine Books for Maine Kids can be followed on Facebook.  More information about Bess the Book Bus can be found by visiting  More information about Cynthia Lord and her writings can be found at her website,