The teenage girl in the eighth-grade English class he taught distracted Jordan Sonnenblick.
She laughed all the time in the middle of class. She became friends with everyone she sat next to, causing further disruptions in class.
The teacher found out her little brother was dying of cancer.
He sought a book that would help her through her hard times. After scouring the Internet, browsing library and bookstore shelves and consulting colleagues, he couldn’t find a book that dealt with the subject for a middle school student.
So, he wrote one, turning the girl’s story into inspiration for other teens.
On Wednesday, Sonnenblick, who has written seven books with most aimed toward young adults, told Greenwood Middle School students they could find life fulfillment if they use their talents to help others.
“You don’t want to be a grown up who had a dream and never tried,” Sonnenblick said.
All 947 students at the school read his book “Notes from the Midnight Driver” in their English classes. He spoke to students in Center Grove and Perry Meridian earlier this week.
His speech was part of an annual event for Greenwood schools. Each year they have an author speak to their students so they can meet the person who writes at least one book they study in their classes, media specialist Lu Dayment said. Greenwood schools paid about $2,700 for his appearance. Center Grove and Perry Meridian split hotel and airfare expenses for the author, Dayment said.
Seeing an author speak allows students to put a face to the book they have been reading and spur more interest in the author, she said.
“His books will now fly off the (library) shelves,” Dayment said. “That is what we’re after.”
As part of the event, teachers set up a room where students can re-enact parts of the books.
Greenwood students learned to play simple guitar notes, made Valentine’s Day cards for a nearby retirement home and learned how to fingerprint people in the school’s read and feed room.
The book’s main character was in a jazz band and was sentenced to community service at a nursing home after crashing a car into a garden gnome after drinking alcohol. A fake newspaper article in the room detailed the crash, while students could play a guitar, learn karate and help elderly people at a nursing home, all events that happened in the book.
Re-enacting scenes from the book helps students better comprehend what happened, said Tyler Kelso, an eighth grader.
“You can relate to the activities,” he said.