A dash of Hollywood came to Cedar Grove when actress Julianne Moore visited South End Elementary School to share her series of children’s books with local students.
Moore, an Academy Award-winning actress, visited Dec. 9 and read from her “Freckleface Strawberry” series to students in Grades K-2, and signed books for the kids.
Despite her celebrity stature, South End Media Specialist Tania Liddy said they approached Moore’s arrival with the focus on her career as an author.
“It tied in kind of nicely because this year we’re working on character education, and her books are all about differences in people and how you and your best friend can be different,” Liddy said. “[Moore] has red hair and freckles, so kids called her names. She talked about how she felt.”
The students prepared for Moore’s visit by all wearing red to go with the strawberry theme, decorating the hallways and display case with art from her books, and welcoming her with a sign outside the school.
Liddy said Moore was friendly and kind during her stay and showed her acting chops with an animated storytelling with different voices and gestures throughout.
Most of the students did not know Moore through her acting career, as most of her movies do not cater to their age group, noted South End Principal Lynn DiMatteo. Featured in movies such as “The Big Lebowski,” “The Lost World: Jurassic Park,” and “Crazy Stupid Love,” Moore’s celebrity status was just an added bonus for the adults, DiMatteo said.
“We were a little starstruck. I’m not going to say we weren’t,” she acknowledged, noting how Moore’s arrival in the afternoon left a sense of anticipation through Friday morning.
When the students had the chance to ask Moore questions, almost all of them were about her writing rather than acting, DiMatteo said. The way the kids reacted was interesting to watch, she said.
“I turned to look at the faces of the students while she was reading because they were mesmerized,” the principal said. “Their eyes were on her and they were hanging on every word. She really captured them at that moment, without a doubt.”
During her 15 years in Cedar Grove, DiMatteo said she couldn’t remember a celebrity of Moore’s stature coming to town. She said it will be difficult to top for the next author visit.
Cedar Grove Board of Education Vice President Frank Mandala recalled the excitement about Moore’s visit when it was first announced at a South End FSA meeting.
“It was a huge thing,” Mandala said. “Like when they said her name they sort of did a drum roll thing, and I said, ‘Oh my God, that’s huge.’”