Guest post by Francesca Rappa
I was a docent at the NCMA for nearly a decade when I started to write the first of five novels in my children’s series, The Adventurous Melody West. People often ask me what first inspired me to write, and I must say it was the children I toured who inspired me. Every Friday I would take a group of third or fourth or fifth graders around the Museum to see the wonderful works of art in the collection, and I was amazed to see how transforming the experience was for them. Children connect emotionally to works of art. They are quick to bring their experiences into play when viewing and have a keen eye for all the details. They also have many questions and listen carefully to their classmates. A visit to the NCMA is an experience a child will remember for the rest of his or her life.
It was from my work as a docent that I set out to write stories for tweens about the intersection of art and nature and culture. I imagined a thoughtful and intelligent girl named Melody West, who is 11 years old and lives in a vibrant southern town not unlike Raleigh. With the help of her friends, Melody solves mysteries, looks for hidden treasures, and travels to exotic destinations, including an ancient forest in Canada and a bustling city in Japan. She also travels closer to home. In the course of her adventures, Melody learns about nature and culture as well as the art children enjoy on my tours, including John James Audubon’s Trumpeter Swan and a piece of sculpture by Alexander Archipenko called the Blue Dancer, to name just two. Melody also learns about art young children make with their own hands; namely, pottery. I enjoy writing about Melody. Not only do her adventures entertain young readers, but they also educate them about the mysterious and beautiful world around them.