Jul 27, 2007

Thank You Scott Corbett

You may not have heard of him but Scott Corbett changed my life.

It was early in my 2nd grade year and we were in the school library. Miss Sporky had given us 15 minutes to find something to read and time was running out. [I've forgotten my teachers real last name. I remember she was young and I had a crush.] I was in one of those kid panics, running through the stacks trying to find something before the librarian or Sporky gave me something off of the teacher approved reading list. The literary equivalent of brussel sprouts.

I don't know what caught my eye but in the last few seconds as Miss Sporky was using her teacher voice to get kids to the checkout line, I finally settled on "Ever Ride A Dinosaur?" by Scott Corbett. I'm sure it was the dinosaur cover that cinched it. Last minute as it was, it was one of the best choices I ever made.

I laughed out loud while I was reading the book which got me in trouble during free time and when it was time to do my oral report, my favorite anecdote had me laughing too hard to talk. Of course that got the class laughing and Miss Sporky had me sit down before I was through. That book traveled through a lot of 2nd grade hands that year.

I don't know why I connected with this book. I liked reading comic books, I liked reading comic strips and I didn't even mind reading textbooks but this was like a reading vacation; a sort of reading road trip. Most of my reading was for getting from here to there but Corbett's book was like finding the open road, the trip was light and relaxing. Recreational reading became a lifelong habit.

Like all kids that lock on to something good, I went searching for more Scott Corbett and the old boy didn't disappoint. I found "The Lemonade Trick, the first in a series of a dozen books that Corbett started in 1960 and finished in 1977. "The Limerick Trick" [4th in the series] was and still is, a personal favorite.

Corbett was born July 27 1913. He had a degree in journalism and was a free lance magazine writer in NY. During WWII, he was a reporter for Stars & Stripes magazine and an editor of Yank, an armed service magazine based in Paris. After the war, he taught at Moses Brown, a private school for K-12. He would teach during the day and write late afternoons. He wrote five adult novels before turning to kids literature. Corbett died last year at the age of 93 . He's not a media darling but with over 80 books to his credit and 30 years of kid lit, Scott Corbett leaves a legacy any author would be proud of.


Dale Hugo said...

On Scott Corbett...
I was chatting with my younger daughter (she is 9) when I spotted the Lemonade Trick on her sister's desk. The trick books were a favorite of mine (the Limerick Trick being the best). A few years ago I found a few on eBay and snatched them up.
What is interesting to me, now, is that I am in the middle of Funke's Inkheart. In it, she writes that people often forget that stories are written by real people, not just people long ago dead. I was saddened to hear Corbett dies shortly (but hey, 93 ain't bad!). You gave him a good write up. He touched my life in a positive way and helped me have a happy few years in primary school. God Speed, Scott.

Thanks, again,
Dale Hugo

Ron Grimshaw said...

Thank you for this post. I too was changed by 'The Limerick Trick', and so when my 15 year-old son had an assignment to come up with some original limericks, he and I wrote some that had the teacher and class laughing.

I even recall writing the author at the time (3rd grade), and (to my amazement) getting a nice form letter with a personally handwritten response at the bottom.