Darbydale Elementary students had several special visitors Friday, March 15.
Upper Arlington resident and children's book author Susan Levine and illustrator Erin Burchwell talked about their book "Packard Takes Flight," which tells the story of a peregrine falcon who travels to several well-known Columbus landmarks as he makes his way home from the big city.
Students also got a close-up look at a real falcon, Legacy, brought to the school by Gail Laux of the Mansfield-based Ohio Bird Sanctuary.
Some of the places Packard visits in Levine's book include COSI, the Franklin Park Conservatory and the Columbus Museum of Art.
Darbydale students have all read the book, literacy coach Jenn Cavey said.
"Each class picked one of the places featured in the book and created a mural and 3D model of their landmark," she said. "The students really worked hard on their projects."
The students who researched the Columbus Dispatch building created a school newspaper, including an interview with principal Beverlee Powers, to go with their mural.
"The class that researched the Ohio Theatre couldn't find much material to help their research, so they made some brochures for the theater," Cavey said.
During the week leading up to Levine's visits, the classes took turns reading facts about their chosen landmark during morning announcements, she said.
Arranging for the author visit served two purposes, Powers said.
Not only did it help inspire students about reading, but it also helped them learn more about the city of Columbus, she said.
Levine said she decided to write the book after being amazed to find there were no picture books for children about the capital city.
"I was a mother helping to put together a field trip of Columbus landmarks for my child's fourth grade class and when I went to the library, they told me there were no books for children about Columbus," she said. "I couldn't believe it. So I set out to write that book."
In addition to teaching youngsters about Columbus, Levine said she hopes her book and school visits help inspire students to want to visit some of the locations Packard sees on his way home.
"Some of these places aren't the kind of places children would normally want to go, so if I hope I can help interest them to ask their parents to go to the art museum or the topiary gardens," she said.
During their presentations, Levine told students the process for writing and getting a book sold to publishers and Burchwell explained how a book is manufactured.
Her choice of a falcon as the main character came after she saw a story on the news about the birds that actually nest at the top of the Rhodes Tower, Levine told students.
Peregrine falcons are predators, and Laux told students what falcons eat and how they hunt their prey.