A Whirlwind Trip through Utah

I’m just back from snowy Utah. It was actually clear (mostly) while I was there, but they’ve been having their snowiest winter in fourteen years, and the mountains were beautiful.
It was my first visit to the state. My host Leann Moody, reading teacher extraordinaire from Dixon Middle School, and her husband gave me a quick tour of downtown Salt Lake, then we drove to Orem. We had a nice dinner at Los Hermanos (naturally I fly from Texas to Utah so I can have Mexican food) then it was off to Barnes & Noble. We had about 300 people come out, which was pretty amazing considering I’ve never toured Utah before. Thanks to everyone who braved the cold, though I guess you guys are more used to it than I was!
Special thanks to the students and teachers from Spanish Oaks Elementary (pictured with me above) who brought me an incredible blue food gift basket, and to Mapleton Elementary (the other group shot). They have been reading The Lightning Thief in class, and I’m glad everyone looks so happy in the photo they brought me! Thanks to Audrey from Dixon Middle School, who let Mrs. Moody share her artwork. Audrey has been doing a graphic novel format for the Lightning Thief, and you can see a sample above. The Barnes & Noble staff did an amazing job. They were dressed in Greek costume (ever wear a Greek chiton when it’s 20 degrees outside? That’s dedication!). Leann had provided a cut-out photo board so the kids could get their picture taken as Grover, Annabeth or Percy. The students also made life-size models of the characters which were hanging in the store windows.
The next morning, I visited Dixon Middle School. It was a busy day — a half-day for the kids, Super Tuesday voting, teacher inservice — in other words, just a typical crazy day in the life of a middle school teacher, but the assemblies went very well. Afterwards, we had a special lunch and writers’ workshop. Leann and her cohorts had done an incredible job decorating the school. The resource room was transformed into Camp Half-Blood, complete with trees and monsters. Each table was a cabin with a cool god or goddess centerpiece. In the afternoon we zipped back to the airport in Salt Lake and now I’m back home in Texas, catching up on my work. Thanks again to all the young heroes of Utah. I’ll hope to see you again sometime!

Rick Riordan