Beacon High School students celebrated their stately new library with a grand reopening last month. The teens were of course impressed with the library’s new computers, movie-viewing rooms and access to online databases. But the big draw for the students was author Frank McCourt, who spoke at the school’s weeklong literary festival in honor of the new library technology, thanks to a City Council grant.
The festival started on Nov. 17 and featured three Pulitzer Prize winners.
McCourt, a former high school English teacher and one of the Pulitzer Prize-winning authors, was the guest of honor at the grand reopening breakfast.
“The kids were enthralled,” said Anne Hanin, the librarian at the West 61st Street school. “Kids who couldn’t get into the library, they were hanging by the windows and doors.”
McCourt, the guest speaker for the day, regaled students with his humorous anecdotes about teaching and his somber tales of growing up in poverty. Several of the 9th grade classes he spoke to read his award-winning book, Angela’s Ashes, last summer. Samara Zelko, a junior at Beacon, said his wit was a hit with students from all grades.
“He had a very intellectual sense of humor that is very different from his writing style,” Zelko said. “He can really capture an audience of mixed ages.”
McCourt answered students’ questions, which covered his life in Ireland and Brooklyn, as well as his writing and teaching career.
“He was a real celebrity on campus,” Hanin said. “They were asking for autographs in pages of their books and any piece of paper they could find.”
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