Farewell to JHS13

Behind the Book bid a reluctant farewell to our nine-year partnership with JHS 13/CPEMS last week, as the school closed its doors for the final time after Friday’s graduation ceremony.

The graduation was held at the legendary Apollo Theater on West 125th St, where a ceremony was held followed by a reception and dancing in the theater and on stage.

Principal Jacob Michelman delivered an emotional address to all in attendance while parents cheered. We were touched to not only be mentioned in the program, but in his speech, when he commented that: “There’s no way you don’t love to read after a Behind the Book program.”

Teachers perform their own song to the eighth grade at the Apollo Theatre.

Teachers perform a song they composed for the graduating class during the moving graduation ceremony at the Apollo Theatre.


It’s been an honor to work with the teachers on 41 literacy programs over almost a decade; to get to know the students through their writing and to connect them with 25 accomplished authors, some of whom have returned to work with the school year after year. Our full honor roll of authors who have inspired our students to read, write, ask questions and take risks appears below.

Among them, author Rita Williams-Garcia worked with us at JHS 13 for four years. This spring she returned to work with us as eighth graders focused on the civil rights movement of the 1960’s while reflecting on current civil rights newspaper headlines in their social justice unit. Students read Rita’s One Crazy Summer and used it as their inspiration to publish their own book, Close to Our Hearts – What Matters Most To Us. We were impressed with the connections the students made to Rita’s book, their interpretations of current issues and the thought that went into their accompanying art work. It’s a great book! To see the finished product click here.

Thank you JHS 13 for the past nine years. What matters most to us is that you’re as proud of your work as we are and that you’ve been inspired to write! We wish you all the best in the future.

JHS13 class pic

Read our full interview with Mr Michelman – on introducing reluctant readers to inspiring authors and on getting to know students through their writing.

Behind the Book’s Authors at JHS13, 2006-2015

Hope Anita Smith (06) The Way A Door Closes

Jacqueline Woodson (‘07) If They Come Softly, (’08) After Tupac and D Foster

Patricia McCormick (‘07) My Brother’s Keeper, (’08) Cut

Willie Perdomo (’06, ’07, 10) Where A Nickel Costs A Dime

Alex Simmons (’07) The Raven League (’11) Archies’s World Tour

Eric Walters Orca Soundings Series books

Trish Marx (’08, ’09) Steel Drumming at the Apollo: The Road to Super Top Dog

James Howe The Misfits

John Grandits Concrete Poetry: Technically, It’s Not My Fault, and Blue Lipstick

Papoleto Melendez A Papoleto Reader

Paul Volponi Black and White

Zetta Elliott (’09, ’11, ‘12) Bird (’13) Ship of Souls

Shadra Strickland, illustrator of Bird

Greg Neri (’08, ‘09) Chess Rumble (’13) Yummy

Jesse Watson, illustrator of Chess Rumble

Todd Strasser Boot Camp

Brian Selznick The Invention of Hugo Cabret

Charles Smith Jr. Chameleon

Tony Medina (’09,’12) I and I Bob Marley (’09, ‘10) Love to Langston

Matt de la Pena We Were Here

Rita Williams-Garcia (‘09‘10’11) Jumped (’15) One Crazy Summer

Andrea Pinkney Bird in a Box

Jewell Parker Rhodes Ninth Ward

Sofia Quintero Efrain’s Secret

Hope Anita Smith (06) The Way A Door Closes