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Me and Dave Berry

At least in this article from the Miami Herald:

Authors visit Cutler Ridge Middle School

Cutler Ridge Middle School students get to meet two authors, Dave Barry and G. Neri.


Special to The Miami Herald

Like many young teenagers, Greg Neri just didn't like to read.

He had a tough time finding a book he could relate to.

That is until he found Norton Juster's The Phantom Tollbooth, which he credits as the first book that inspired him to read.

Greg Neri is now G. Neri, author of books for young adults.

He talked with a group of Cutler Ridge Middle School students about his latest release Chess Rumble, a free-verse novella about an inner-city youth absorbing life lessons through learning chess.

''Chess is a perfect mirror of life and society. There are kings and queens, but without the pawns, nothing would happen,'' Neri told the kids.

''The object of the game is to get the king. Getting the king can mean a lot of things in life. For a teenager, getting the king can be graduating from school, going to college, getting a job and so on,'' added Neri, a self-described amateur chess player.

Neri never thought he would be an author. The former animator, illustrator and filmmaker said he began writing five years ago, when he was moved by the plight of a boy from Chicago known as Yummy.

Yummy was an 11-year-old boy killed by gang violence in the 1990s.

The graphic novel is due out next spring.

Chess Rumble was inspired by inner-city school chess enrichment programs and tells the story of Marcus, a New York City boy who finds his way in life through chess.

Neri finds writing to a young adult audience is uniquely gratifying.

''A teenager is experiencing everything for the first time. They have no frame of reference. They are constantly dealing with the unknown, which is more exciting, both for the characters and me as a writer,'' he said.


Longtime Miami Herald columnist and Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Dave Barry also met with students at Cutler Ridge Middle. He and Neri were part of the Miami Book Fair International.

Barry, author of more than a dozen books for adults, partnered with writer Ridley Pearson for a series about Peter Pan. Barry has once again collaborated with Pearson on Science Fair.

Their latest book tells the story of how eighth-grader Toby Harbinger and his friends embark on a special mission to save the United States from an evil mastermind by stopping a science fair.

Barry not only discussed the book with the Cutler Ridge Middle students. He also demonstrated some of the actual science projects in the book.

''I'm always willing to make a mess in class,'' joked Barry, referring to his book's version of the Nuclear Mentos experiment he performed for the students Monday.

The Nuclear Mentos experiment involves dropping mints into a bottle of Diet Coke to produce a kind of geyser.

''Schools are always the most fun,'' Barry said.

Cutler Ridge Middle Principal Ed Alonso said kids looked forward to the authors' appearances.

``This was a way to make reading something alive and fun to the students, to show them that it's not always an arduous process. Seeing them learn to love reading makes everything you do worthwhile.''