This past weekend, a group of New York City publishers and four popular children’s book author-illustrators joined together in reaching out to the school libraries of Moore, Okla., which have been struggling to rebuild facilities and collections that were damaged or destroyed when fast-moving tornadoes swept through the region on May 20. Twenty-four people died that day, including 10 children. Seven of the children killed were students at Plaza Towers Elementary School, one of two elementary schools in the city of 55,000 residents that were reduced to rubble.
An A-list of literary talent shared the stage at the two-day fundraiser, called Drawn Together: Cartoonists Unite to Benefit Moore Oklahoma School Libraries: Jeff Kinney (Diary of a Wimpy Kid), Dav Pilkey (Captain Underpants), Lincoln Peirce (Big Nate), and Stephan Pastis (Timmy Failure; Pearls Before Swine). The four, who had never appeared together as a group, all spoke about their work and careers before more than 2000 fans, who each paid $10 to attend either of two events: the first was held at the Cox Business Center in Tulsa on September 27, and the second at the Lloyd Noble Center in the university town of Norman the next day.
The event was Kinney’s idea, inspired, he told PW, by the sight of the tornadoes’ impact the day they touched down in Oklahoma. He remembers witnessing the carnage while watching television at the airport in Miami when his flight home to Massachusetts was delayed.
“It had a powerful effect on me,” he recalled. “At the time, a lot of the children were still unaccounted for. I could imagine what it would be like to be one of those parents.”
When Kinney heard later that the libraries at the schools most affected were trying to rebuild, he contacted Peirce and Pastis, whom he knew, and the publicist for Pilkey, whom he didn’t.
“Within a day, I’d heard from all three,” he said, noting that between them, the four live on the East and West Coasts (although Pilkey divides his time between Washington State and Japan). This inspired the fundraiser’s title, because, Kinney said, “We came from such different places, and met in the middle.”
Aside from ticket sales, funds were raised through poster, t-shirt, and book sales, with Abrams (Kinney), HarperCollins (Peirce), Scholastic (Pilkey), and Candlewick (Pastis) each donating 400 copies of a book by the participating author that each publishes. In total, more than $70,000 has been raised by the four publishers and authors through sales and private donations for Moore’s school libraries.
Kinney says the group’s four presentations all “meshed really well,” and that they received such an enthusiastic reception from attendees, that the four are discussing plans for more such fundraising events to benefit the children of Moore.