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May 27, 2022

By Laurie Hornik, Middle School English Department Chair

On Thursday 5/12, the Fieldston Middle’s 7th Grade hosted poet and essayist Aimee Nezhukumatathil for a virtual visit with the full grade, as well as a Literary Lunch with a smaller group of students. This year, all 7th Graders are reading Nezhukumatathil’s book “World of Wonders” in their English classes, and students are preparing to write their own personal nature essays using “World of Wonders” as a model. We spoke to a few students about Nezhukumatathil’s visit.

Students watch Nezhukumatathil speak on screen in classroom

What do you particularly like or find meaningful about the book “World of Wonders?”

“I find it meaningful that she created a new style of writing which inspired me to write more. I loved how she really explained the specifics of the animals and their characteristics. I really love that every animal had a certain part in her life and every animal meant something deeply to her. The animals described her life and how she got through it. The comparisons from her to the animals were my favorite part,” says Ian R. ’27.

Students listen intently as they sit at a long table indoors

What is something Ms. Nezukumatathil shared in her visit with us that you found particularly interesting?

“Something that was really interesting to me — and explained a lot of her story plus why she wrote the book — was her childhood. She mentioned that she really liked, and still likes, animals, but the reason for that comes from when she was a kid. As a kid, she could never find herself represented in books, which made her turn to books about animals. I have heard many other authors say that they started writing because they didn’t see themselves in books but Aimee is a little different. Instead of writing after her identity, she wrote about animals, something she felt didn’t judge her,” says Riley M. ’27.

“She told a story about a poet telling her no one would publish her because of her last name. Her last name is uncommon and long, but that has nothing to do with her capabilities of writing a book. Here she is now having already written five plus books with the name that was so called ‘uncommon and weird,’” says Jade R. ’27.

Large group of students listen to talk in the Student Commons

“I thought her story about the cover was really interesting. She said that every animal and plant [from “World of Wonders”] was on the cover except her favorite, the peacock, which was the color of blue her name is written in on the cover,” says Tallulah E. ’27.

“She described how she wrote 200 different essays before condensing to only 30. I was inspired to know that it was not an easy process and she had to write 170 essays that she didn’t use!” says Riley.

Students watch screen from tables in classroom

What writing advice did you learn from Ms. Nezhukumatathil that you might want to try?

“Start small. Don’t try to write something extraordinary on your first try. Our minds can only do so much in a certain amount of time,” says Jade.

“Try sitting down and writing about what you love,” says Clarke G. ’27.

“During the Literary Lunch, something that stuck out to me was that she asked friends and family if they remembered anything that could help her with the details in her essays. I would not have thought to do this while I was writing, but when we write out essays, I definitely will,” says Riley.