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Plan a Visit from Allen

Available Presentations

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Allen speaks frequently on matters of literacy, reading, writing, and the social and intellectual role of the public library. He has given keynote speeches and lectures throughout the United States and Europe. Although Allen has spoken in august settings—the Library of Congress, Oxford University, Trinity College, Dublin, Yale University—it is in grade school classrooms that he finds the greatest satisfaction as an educator.

Allen invariably tailors his school and library presentations to the specific setting and situation. A struggling charter school that lacks library facilities will, by necessity, prompt one set of pedagogic priorities. A private school with a robust book budget will prompt another. That said, all of Allen‘s school talks have two common features: an underlying allegiance to young readers, and a commitment to the redemptive power of the written and spoken word. Currently Allen offers three basic programs:

Presentation One: My Son, My Editor

For grade and middle school _readers_. In this presentation Allen shows children how even the most horrific grade-school experiences can yield humorous results. Drawing upon anecdote and his very own fourth grade report card (viewable on Allen‘s website), plus the editorial perspective of his grade-school son, Allen charts out the path a book takes from nagging notion to publication, all the while challenging students to consider the power of metaphor, synonym, narrative, etymology, suspense, restraint, and (sometimes) spit.

Presentation Two: Chip Off the Young Block

For grade and middle school readers. A follow-up to "My Son, My Editor", this talk turns the world‘s most popular snack food—the potato chip—into an object of scientific and literary inquiry. This presentation includes a discussion of the scientific instruments Allen invented and used while writing Leon and the Champion Chip. Objects presented include: a potato chip measuring gauge, a clock that runs off a potato, selections from Allen‘s collection of museum-quality potato chips. Along the way, Allen introduces doses of poetry and metaphor, plus principles of science that might otherwise meet resistance. When appropriate, Allen can bring along a small quantity of “research material” for the students to analyze (and munch on) while they discuss the Leon books.

Presentation Three: Classification by Attraction

For teachers and librarians. This is a less whimsical exploration of how the rhetoric of “interdisciplinarity” and “integrated curricula” can—and indeed must—find application in grade school education. During this presentation, Allen draws on his own primary education—at a fledgling community school in Italy, progressive and public schools in Manhattan, an experimental school in rural Massachusetts, and a boarding school in Switzerland—to argue for a more fluid and intimate relationship among various disciplines. Using his experience as a teacher at Yale University and in elementary schools throughout the country, Allen produces what one school administrator has called, “a spellbinding talk that summons up the alchemy of written word.”

Potato Chip Science Camp

A follow-up to the follow-up, this one-day science camp transforms the residue of America’s most beloved snack food into experimental research material. Using his popular “snacktivity” kit, Allen shows kids how discarded bags, lids and tubes can be turned into stomp rockets, sound spinners, confetti cannons, and many other objects of discovery.

Author Visit Information

This page is also available as a PDF file


Allen enjoys giving both formal and informal presentations at schools and libraries. Ideally, his appearances take the form of an interactive 45-minute presentation. These conversations touch on the writing process, the sources of inspiration (and perspiration), the importance of revision, and the redemptive power of the written word. His school visits are appropriate for grades 2-7, and he can speak to any size group.

Allen’s goals are simple:

  1. He wants to excite students about reading and writing.
  2. He wants to help students understand that writing can be a profoundly useful tool for working out problems.
  3. He wants students to appreciate that even dismal grade-school experiences can be turned into fun fiction.


Allen is available for full day and multiple day author visits. He can make two presentations in the morning, and two in the afternoon. For fee information please contact Allen's assistant Alex at Payment in the form of a check should be given to Allen at the end of the event. As is standard practice, travel and hotel expenses must be reimbursed. Keep in mind, one day at your school, library, or conference often represents three days of Allen’s time, when you factor in travel.

Because the honorarium and expenses can add up, you might consider pooling resources with other schools and libraries to share the costs. Allen can do up to four presentations a day, so up to four sponsors can share the expenses equally.


If you’ve decided to invite Allen to your school or library, here’s what you should consider doing before he arrives. Give yourselves a few weeks to allow students to read some of Allen’s work. This can be done out loud by the teacher, or individually by the students. When Allen arrives at schools or libraries, he finds the better prepared the audience is, the better the event. Allen is happy to receive index cards containing questions from the students. Please include the student’s name and grade. Allen can generally get through 25 questions in an hour-long presentation. There is no need to send the questions in advance. Allen is pretty quick on his feet.

What people are saying about Allen’s presentations

“The fifth grade class was enchanted by Allen Kurzweil’s visit during our annual autumn book fair. Using props and personal experiences, Mr. Kurzweil drew us into the mechanics of how an author builds a story from unforgotten embarrassments, insatiable curiosity, and the world about him. Speaking with the voice of one who has not forgotten fifth grade, Mr. Kurzweil lured students into the process of writing by webbing his novels in terms that demonstrate how an object as simple as a potato chip can become a cause célèbre, and how the richness of the mundane can become fodder for creativity. Mr. Kurzweil is dynamic and interactive in his approach, and inspiring to readers and writers alike.”

Elizabeth Samuels, Fifth Grade Teacher, Moses Brown School, Providence, RI

“We love your book, Leon and the Spitting Image. We find it one of the best books we have ever read. We are doing a book talk on you and your excellent book.”

Lainey, age 10

“To the delight of hundreds of Ogden, Utah students Mr. Kurzweil taught and entertained them in October 2005. His stories of potatoes and Leon and the Champion Chip encouraged our students to consider how science works in our everyday lives… many potato clocks were built just to test his theory! Mr. Kurzweil charmed us all while broadening our perspectives, encouraging our imaginations, and renewing our desire to read more! We would welcome Allen Kurzweil back to Utah any time!”

Laurie J. Sumsion, Retail Events, Deseret Books, Ogden, UT

“I am currently reading Leon and the Spitting Image to my class. I just had to write to tell you how much my class (27 kids) LOVES your book. They look forward to it everyday and let out a big sigh of disappointment when I say, ‘that’s all for today.’ Thanks for writing such a great story!”

Catherine Latour, Fourth Grade Teacher, St. Anne School, Ottawa, Ontario

“We asked for Allen Kurzweil to come speak at local schools the day after he did events for us for Leon and the Spitting Image. I religiously requested Allen for a return visit every quarter knowing that his book was not even a complete manuscript. We host a lot of authors and bring many authors into the schools for presentations and Allen is the best of the best. He is able to immediately relate to his audience — young readers — and is patient, funny, irreverent, thoughtful, humble and nothing short of wonderful.”

Jenny Lawton, School Visit Coordinator, Greenwich School System, Owner, Just Books, Greenwich, CT

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