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Historical fiction has always fascinated me, and I love hooking kids on an interesting period in history though an exciting story. Shadow on the Mountain is a gripping story of a young boy's resistance to the Nazi German occupiers in Norway during World War II. Margi Preus has created an exciting story full of action and adventure, but she also infuses it with a full sense of this period of history.
Espen is just fourteen when German Nazi soldiers occupied Norway in 1940. The occupation has made life hard for all Norwegians, but it has also increased their sense of national identity and pride. At first, Epsen helps the Norwegian Resistance movement in small ways, delivering newspapers, refusing to participate in a Nazi-sponsored school event.
As the story begins, Epsen is riding his bike one evening when he is stopped by a car full of Nazi soldiers. As they search his rucksack, Espen notices that his friend Kjell is sitting in the car with the soldiers, but Kjell refuses to make eye contact with Epsen. The soldiers let him go on his way, believing he is on his way to visit his uncle, but Espen is really carrying coded information for the Norwegian Resistance. As he rides home, he keeps wondering about Kjell.
Preus captures the struggle of Norwegians who resisted the Nazi occupation, showing how ordinary citizens found ways big and small to stand up to the Germans. By centering her plot around a young teen, she draws young readers into the story. She hooks them with action and suspense, as Epsen becomes more and more involved in the Resistance, first as a courier and finally as a covert spy. I particularly agree with Lynn Rutan's review over at Bookends blog:
Epsen "is an ordinary boy who eventually does extraordinary things and this makes Prues’ skillful portrayal of his courage all the more affecting. Espen is frequently terribly afraid – and with very good reason – and yet even while admitting that fear to himself, he does intensely brave things – the very essence of courage." -- Lynn Rutan, Bookends blog
Margi Preus has shared many resources that will interest teens and teachers. Shadow on the Mountain is based on real events and the experiences of real people. The book contains photos, maps, and archival material. I'm especially interested in reading more about Erling Storrusten, the Norwegian man whose experiences in the Resistance movement inspired Preus's novel.
Share this story with young teens and tweens who like adventure stories and war stories, but also share it with kids who are pulled into friendship dilemmas and historical fiction.
Get a sense of it for yourself with this preview from Google Books:
This book will be one of the many I'll be recommending at Mrs. Dalloway's Books for our Fantastic Summer Reading Event next week. Hope you can join us!
Get ready for a fun adventure with Claude, the adorable dog, and his best friend,
Claude and Sir Bobblysock set out on their first visit to the city. On day one, they visit a fancy cafe, discover the best beret shop in the world, visit an art gallery, and witness an art theft. Will Claude and Sir Bobblysock have what it takes to foil the robbery? The next day, Claude rushes a sick Sir Bobblysock to the hospital. Quirky characters and a play on words with the doctor's name will have young readers snickering at every turn of the page. The pen and ink illustrations are a throwback to early readers of the sixties and seventies. The strong writing will make parents wish their first books had been as charming as Claude in the City. The splash of reds give the book a cartoon-like feel. It's almost impossible not to fall in love with Claude. A HIGHLY RECOMMENDED early reader.
Purchase from the following retailers:
Publisher: Peachtree Publisher (April 2013)
ISBN 13-978-1561456970 Giveaway Details:
One of my lucky readers will receive a copy of Claude in the City. Please use the Rafflecopter form to enter. By entering, you acknowledge you have read the terms on the Rafflecopter form and agree to them.
Contest ends April 26, 2013 at 11:59 EST.
**I received the book at no charge from the publisher to facilitate the review. No monetary compensation was exchanged and I was in no way obligated to give a positive review.
There are times a story fills you with inspiration and love so much that you just have to reach out and share it with a friend. As soon as I read Building Our House, by Jonathan Bean, I knew this was exactly the perfect story for our friend Ry and his family. Recently he asked me if I knew any books to share with his sons who love building things, watching their dad work on construction sites, and plan their own building projects. This book not only shows all the steps of building a house, but it's full of love and warmth in a way you'll want to read it over and over again.
A young family buys a plot of land in the country and sets about building their home from the ground up. Right from the beginning, you're brought into the oldest daughter's perspective, and you can feel this family's excitement.
Children will be fascinated by each step of the building process. I just love this picture below, and how the little girl is studying the house plans right along with Mom and Dad. The whole family works together to build their house.
For all the great construction details, this story is ultimately a celebration of a family’s love. The drawings radiate with warmth, as everyone works together through thick or thin. Their friends come from all over to help build the frame. But then the family works piece by piece through the seasons to finish each detail.
Jonathan Bean drew on his own childhood memories to create this story. As he writes in the author's note, his own parents built their own house when he was a small child. The photographs Bean includes help bring this story to the next level - letting kids know that this really can happen, that a family can work hard towards their dreams, and that it takes everyone working together.
So how did Ry and his family like it? It was a huge hit. Here's what Teyo (age 4) said:
"I like this book because I love building and I want to build a house with my dad."
You just know that this is a book he's going to read over and over again with his family. Fills my heart, this does, knowing how much a book can connect with a kid and his dad.
Video courtesy of Abrams Books: When Andrew gets hold of a pencil, anything can—and does—happen in this innovative and artistic book. The story literally unfolds step-by-step as readers are invited to follow Andrew through flaps and gatefolds. After sharpening his drawing implement on the first page, Andrew challenges the boundaries of each spread by beginning with a line that leads . . . and leads . . . to unexpected finishes. Staircases become dinosaurs, kites become rockets, and even the most unassuming squiggle morphs into a giant chicken! This lighthearted depiction of artistic inspiration is sure to engage doodlers of all ages.
Praise for Andrew Drew and Drew
“Any question of reality versus representation is the gentlest kind, utterly unobtrusive…Joyful imagination, plain and simple.”
“The magic comes from the accompanying artwork, which follows the eponymous boy and his adventures in drawing… Like a certain boy with a purple crayon, Andrew knows that drawing offers limitless possibilities, and readers will, too.”
“In this humorous and heartfelt portrait of a young artist, Andrew models by example the ebb and flow of the creative process.”
“Each page in this cleverly-designed book is filled with a line, a loop, even a stair step that Andrew has doodled on the paper, and the beginnings of his drawings often lead to something that even the artist himself doesn’t expect.”
—Reading Today Online
Do you have a little daredevil at home? My nephew loves everything that goes fast, jumps high and makes loud noises. His dad's favorite hobby? Going to the car races. So we know where this little guy gets his passion!
This holiday I'm going to make him a daredevil cape - bright red and shiny. It's going to be the perfect "go faster" special effect for him. But the book that I'm going to have tucked inside this cape? Kel Gilligan's Daredevil Stunt Show - it's a fun spoof on a little boy's quest to be a daredevil in his own right.
Kel Gilligan is a daredevil - brave enough to attempt awe-inspiring feats like eating broccoli, facing "the Potty of Doom," and taking a bath with only ONE assistant. Santat's illustrations heighten both the drama and the humor in Buckley's story. You can tell just by the cover how much kids are going to love this.
Our kindergartners thought the Potty of Doom was hilarious. They are just the right age to remember those little potties and know just what an achievement it is to master them. As the review in Kirkus says,
"Whether he is in underpants, in his caped stuntman outfit or bare-bottomed, young readers (and their grown-ups) cannot help but laugh out loud at the hilarious details of Kel's silly adventures because they tackle them daily and know them too well."
It's interesting that Kel appeals most to kids ages 5-8 who are able to laugh at Buckley's exaggeration and understand that he's really making fun of these small achievements. They know that Kel talks tough, but is really soft inside - especially when it comes to checking for monsters under his bed.
Take a look at Santat's early sketches for Kel - he had originally imagined him as a preschooler, but through editing changes it was decided that Kel should be older, perhaps around 5. Santat developed the flashback device using the parent's videocam to recall the potty and broccoli scenes from Kel's younger days. My kindergartners were a bit confused at these transitions, but it did not detract from the overall impact of the hilarious scenes.
If I can't get my act together to make a red cape, I think this one will do the trick just perfectly: Creative Edition's Red Adventure Cape. I must say that I have not seen this cape in action, but it's gotten great reviews on Amazon.
I am fascinated by the way that book apps can engage readers by integrating so many different ways of learning. You can look at vibrant photographs, manipulate charts and diagrams, watch videos, listen to narration and learn so much. I've been particularly happy to read several Nonfiction Book Apps during this Cybils season. Here are a few that really stand out to me:
Young children love learning about the world around them. This app does a beautiful job introducing preschoolers and kindergartners to real facts about frogs, from their habitat to feeding to metamorphosis, through an appealing story about Franklin Frog and his offspring. It draws children into the story, as they guide the frogs with their fingers. Children make the frogs jump, swim, catch flies, avoid predators, find a place to hibernate, croak to attract a mate and more. This app always feels like an exploration of how a frog lives, and never feels like a game. As the Horn Book review says, this app presents the information in "an accessible way that’s respectful of both its subject and its audience."
Every time I read and explore this app, I am utterly amazed at the adventures these stories share. This app features five amazing stories ranging from mountain climbing in Yosemite to crossing the Antarctic by dogsled to climbing down into a volcano. Each story hooks readers with a short video, but then encourages them to read beyond this initial video to learn more. Text is interspersed with high quality photographs and interactive graphics. Readers scroll in different ways, vertically and horizontally - this keeps readers stimulated and engaged. The interactive graphics let you discover more - for example, a timeline with a sliding bar lets readers explore the different types of climbing gear used over the past 100 years. But most of all, I was impressed with the way readers got a sense of the real people involved through quotes, video and audio. It conveys a first-hand point of view in an exciting, engaging format.
The Wonders of Geology combines stunning photography, clear descriptions, and a combination of text and audio narration to teach tweens and teens about how the Earth's great mountains, valleys and other geological features were formed. Collier's breathtaking photographs draw readers in and convey a sense of awe at the wonders of these spectacular sites. The app switches between concise written paragraphs that introduce a subject and longer narrated segments as viewers look at photographs or diagrams. This helps tweens and teens who are curious about a topic but perhaps not determined enough to read in-depth nonfiction text to learn more about the subject. Collier shares his passion and in-depth knowledge of geology, as well as his stunning photographs. While some students may want more interactive features, I believe that others with an interest in the subject will be fascinated. It would make an excellent complement to a standard textbook for 6th graders studying Earth Science.
Particle physicist Brian Cox brings astrophysics to a general audience with the amazingWonders of the Universe app, bringing together his books Wonders of the Solar System and Wonders of the Universe with his award-winning TV series produced by the BBC. The app uses all of the features of the iPad, drawing readers in with personable, engaging video, clearly written text and interesting diagrams. The journey up from the smallest particles, past the moons and planets of the Solar System, out to the outer edges of the known universe truly blows my mind. I find myself in utter awe that scientists can understand, test and prove this knowledge. As The Other Media's managing director George Crabb says in a Guardian article, "We threw out conventional thinking on multimedia experiences to instead come up with a revolutionary platform that can take complex narratives but deliver them with an intuitive clarity." This is an app for older high school students and adults who are fascinated by physics and astronomy, and who want to explore how multimedia technology can help us understand these subjects. I must admit that I do not understand all of what I am reading in this app, but I am fascinated nonetheless!
Wonders of the Universe combines text and video
Nonfiction Book Apps show that this media has great potential for drawing readers into interesting topics. I am glad that several were nominated for the Cybils Award this year. Tune in on January 1st to the Cybils website to find out which apps are chosen for this year's shortlist.
The apps reviewed here came from both promotional codes sent by the developers and our school app library. The Berkeley Public Education Fund has graciously supported our school as we explore how apps help children learn and engage with a range of books.
Children are fascinated by the characters of our modern mythology - Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny. And yet, there is no clear story that we all tell our children about how these characters came to be. William Joyce has created a wonderful series about these characters called The Guardians of Childhood. My students have loved the magical picture books that Joyce uses to launch this series - The Man in the Moon and The Sandman. Theses stories are now continued with the movie, The Rise of the Guardians.
As a baby, the Man in the Moon (MiM) was watched over by his guardian, the faithful Nightlight. When the evil Pitch, King of the Nightmares, decides to make this innocent baby one of his own, an almighty battle of good versus evil erupts. The valiant Nightlight swears to protect MiM, sacrificing his life in the process. The Man in the Moon does survive, but he is all alone - until he discovers that he can hear the hopes and dreams of the children of Earth.
William Joyce captures young readers' attention with bold, dramatic illustrations, alternating between saturated colors and stark grey tones. But what really struck my students was the message behind the story. There was a sense of awe and quiet as we ended the story with the Man in the Moon vowing to protect the children of Earth. This story resonated with the children on a deeper level - a sense that the moon is always there as their nightlight, reassuring them when nightmares might visit.
The book trailer below does a nice job of introducing the picture book in a dramatic way. I share this story each year with 2nd graders as they study a "good guy vs. bad guy" creative writing unit.
The story of the Man in the Moon is continued with Joyce's newest picture book: The Sandman. This adorable little fellow sends us all to sleep, protecting us from nightmares and fear. Children have responded to his mighty battle with Pitch and to his promise to keep us safe. Again, Joyce's illustrations heighten the dramatic battles and the magical feel to the stories. But it is the heart and message that brings children back to these again and again.
My children and I enjoyed the movie The Rise of the Guardians. The animation was wonderful, and the humor invested in each of the characters gave them depth and staying power. But the chase scenes dominated the storytelling, as so often happens in animated movies. I am sure that gives young viewers satisfaction, but it left me wanting a bit more.
I am looking forward to seeing how my students enjoy the novels based on this series. I am fascinated by the way Joyce has created a complete story-world, using picture books, novels and movies to tell different stories within the same series. Early reports indicate that the novels appeal to 4th through 6th graders who love detailed fantasies.
The review copy was kindly sent by the publishers Simon & Schuster. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you!). Thank you for your support.
Across the country, teachers are looking for ways to share more nonfiction with children. I hope that families think about doing the same as they read with their children. True stories inspire us, stir our curiosity and make us think about our own place in the world. If you are looking for a wonderful book to read aloud with your children, please look for Hand in Hand: Ten Black Men Who Changed America.
Andrea Davis Pinkney wrote this book to inspire young people by sharing with them stories of Black men who refused to give up, who pursued their own dreams and who gave all in order to change our country for the better. As she writes in her introduction, she had "grown weary of so much bad press and ignorant stereotyping of black males. ... Even in its sublest forms, this 'bad press' can stitch a corrosive thread into a kid's psyche and cause him to believe he is inferior or flawed." Throughout each story, Pinkney shows how these important men stood by their own beliefs and refused to bend to the pressures of such negative stereotypes.
Ten short chapters, each ranging from ten to fifteen pages, are arranged chronologically, focusing on distinguished Black men ranging from Benjamin Banneker to Thurgood Marshall to Martin Luther King, Jr. There are no real surprises in the subjects she covers, but Pinkney sheds light on each subject, bringing them to life for children who have heard of them but probably do not know much about their accomplishments.
The strength of this collection is the way Pinkney tells the life story of these distinguished men briefly, but full of flavor. She focuses on important events in each man's life that shape their moral fiber. We learn that Frederick Douglas's early life as a slave imprinted on him the importance of reading and learning:
"Master Hugh's anger taugh him (Frederick) that reading was powerful. If others believed that knowledge made him unfit to be a slave, he would work hard to get as much of as he could."
The writing is clear and accessible for children interested in learning more than a picture book biography can share. Pinkney's writing shines when she is writing with conviction to persuade readers of the importance of these men and their lives.
"Thurgood (Marshall) grabbed on to his law courses and books like a man seizing a life preserver. He wanted to change the way life, liberty and property were upheld for African Americans. This mission was life to him."
At each step, this book begs to be read aloud. Pinkney's writing flows with conviction and grace. A lot of professionals are talking about the Common Core and what it might mean for the way we teach. I hope that teachers and librarians look to books like Hand in Hand to see how we can read more nonfiction aloud with children. Only if we can show that we find nonfiction fascinating, inspiring and stirring, we can encourage our children to read more on their own.
Browse through the text here on this Google Books preview and see how inspiring it is for yourself:
Find more nonfiction to share with your kids at Nonfiction Monday. Today's roundup is being hosted by Travis Jonker over at 100 Scope Notes. Check it out - it's chock-full of resources! The review copy was kindly sent by the publishers Disney / Hyperion. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you!). Thank you for your support.
Funny books draw kids to them, time and time again. Whether it's classics like Ramona the Pest or modern bestsellers like Big Nate or Diary of a Wimpy Kid, kids love books that make them laugh out loud or giggle to themselves. Tonight's monthly #titletalk chat on Twitter focused on funny books. As a good friend Cathy Potter wrote about her students, "The more they laugh, the more they read, and the more the read, the more proficient they become as readers. #titletalk" So true.
Timmy Failure is the eleven-year old founder of the detective agency Total Failure with his best friend and sidekick Total, a 1,500 pound polar bear. Timmy is utterly serious and entirely convinced of his own importance, even though readers are constantly aware of his incompetence. Kids love being in on the joke, being able to laugh at Timmy's constant troubles and his clueless arrogance.
Timmy is sure that his detective business will rake in millions, but he's willing to start small with cases of missing Halloween candy or stolen shoes. At each step, though, he blindly ignores clues staring him right in the face - much to the reader's amusement. As Timmy starts investigating his classmate Gunnar's missing candy, he walks down the hallway past Gunnar's little brother's room and notes:
"Gabe is sitting on his bed, surrounded by candy wrappers. There is chocolate smeared all over his face and an empty plastic pumpkin on the floor. Always on the lookout for clues, I make an important note in my detective log: Gabe: not tidy."
My students love the drawings throughout this story - whether it's of Gabe caught in the act with chocolate all over his face, or Total chomping away in the client's garbage cans. Pastis uses his experience creating the popular Pearls Before Swine cartoon for more than visual humor, though. His story relies on the fast pacing and humor that is the mainstay of comic strips. Timmy comes from a long line of losers we love to laugh at, from Charlie Brown to Calvin (and Hobbes).
It takes quite a bit of sophisticated reading skills to get all the humor going on here. Kids will need to be able to see Timmy's perspective and then figure out that other character's perspectives may be different (and actually more believable). Pastis uses fairly sophisticated vocabulary at times, making this better for your 10 and 11 year old than the drawings might initially suggest.
You'll get a sense of Pastis' humor browsing through this preview from Google Books:
I could go on, but I'd just like to share two last things. Here's a note my student Santi left on our copy of the book with his review:
The final thing is a comment on tonight's #titletalk from the amazing 4th grade teacher, Mr. Colby Sharp:
"I love when my class is very quiet during independent reading and a kid just starts busting up laughing. Kids always want THAT book #titletalk" @ColbySharp
For more from Stephan Pastis, check out his site for Timmy Failure. He's headed to California for a tour next month! I also enjoyed listening to a great interview with Stephan Pastis on Apple's Meet the Author podcast, with the ever enjoyable Jenny Brown. Check out her review of Timmy Failure on Twenty by Jenny. You'll also have fun with Betsy's review over at Fuse #8.
The review copy was kindly sent by the publishers, Candlewick. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you!). Thank you for your support.
Video courtesy of ChronicleBooks: What if Darth Vader took an active role in raising his son? In this hilarious and sweet comic reimagining, Darth Vader is a dad like any other—except with all the baggage of being the Dark Lord of the Sith. Celebrated artist Jeffrey Brown’s delightful illustrations give classic Star Wars® moments a fresh twist, presenting the trials and joys of parenting through the lens of a galaxy far, far away. Life lessons include lightsaber batting practice, using the Force to raid the cookie jar, Take Your Child to Work Day on the Death Star (“Er, he looks just like you, Lord Vader!”), and the special bond shared between any father and son.
Jeffrey Brown is the author of numerous graphic novels and comics, including Cat Getting Out of a Bag and Cats Are Weird. A lifelong Star Wars fan, he lives in Chicago with his wife and five-year-old son.
I always want kids to find books they like to read, but it's also so important for them to find books that are "just right books" for them. As kids develop their reading skills, they need to think about what books they can read smoothly and understand the story.
Transitional chapter books fit in between early readers and regular fiction. Magic Tree House is a classic example, as are the Rainbow Fairy books. Students love reading series at this stage in their reading development, getting to know the characters, enjoying the comfort of predictable plots but enjoying the anticipation of what might change. For the 2011-2012 school year, the most popular chapter book series were:
1. Bad Kitty series, by Nick Bruel Humor is a real draw for readers at this age. Nick Bruel's Bad Kitty series makes me laugh out loud, with its blend of Garfield the cat grouchiness, big and bold line drawings, and wacky nonfiction tidbits. Kids know just how Bad Kitty feels with the indignation of having to share their home with a little brother or sister. In Bad Kitty Meets the Baby, Kitty must figure out just what this thing is that her people have brought home! It's a stinking, drooling mess - and Kitty is sure it's a dog. Until she realizes it must be a baby... Our kids also adored Bad Kitty Takes a Bath, the first in this hilarious series.
2. Ivy and Bean series, by Annie Barrows These books make kids laugh, love reading and feel like there are kids out there as goofy as they feel so much of the time. These best friends are as different as can be, and yet they love spending time together, getting into all sorts of mischief and just having fun. My students love, love this series - coming back to it again and again. Did you know that Ivy and Bean go to Emerson School, just like my students? True fact, true fact. We're so excited for a new Ivy and Bean to come out this fall: Ivy and Bean Make the Rules (Book 9).
On the first day of summer vacation when I was twelve years old, I got on my bicycle, rode three miles down the street through a tunnel of new leaves, emerged into lemon-colored sunshine in the middle of town, racked my bike, opened the front door of the library to release its peppery aroma into the juicy green afternoon, and saw a book with a fantastic cover awaiting me on the nearest wooden table: M.C. Higgins The Great.
On the first page, Mayo Cornelius, sporting lettuce affixed to his wrists with rubber bands (for reasons that became clear later) stared into the distance, imagining the freedom that lay in his future, wondering what to do with it. Just like me: In the deafening summertime silence made up of nobody telling me what to do, and with a bicycle I could theoretically ride until I fell into the Pacific Ocean, I’d spent the entire day thinking, “Now I’m gonna make something happen. But what?”
So I started reading to see what M. C. had done with all his freedom. On a hot, leafy mountainside overlooking the Ohio River, he set out to explore what it meant—the freedom to stand up to his father, the freedom to forge friendships with people very different from himself, the freedom to imagine a future no one else in his family had ever imagined, and the freedom to pursue it. His life was more dramatic than mine, more dangerous, odd, fraught, and strange, because he was a character in a novel, but M. C. himself, I understood. He was on a quest to find out who M. C. really was.
And so M. C. Higgins The Great made the summer of 1975 last forever. His story was the story of how he became himself amid trees and streams and the first hints freedom that come with growing up.
Video courtesy of DisneyHyperion: Trevor Jones has been preparing for the start of seventh grade his entire summer. But he is NOT ready for the news his best friend, Libby, drops on him at the bus stop: he needs to branch out and make new friends. Oh, and he must ask a girl to the fall dance. By the end of the day. Trevor decides that he would rather squirt hot sauce in his eyes than attend the dance. Everything changes, though, when he meets mysterious new student Molly. Trevor starts to think that going to the dance maybe wouldn’t be the worst thing ever. But with detention-wielding teachers, school gossips, and, worst of all, eighth graders conspiring against him, Trevor will have to do the one thing he wasn’t prepared to do: be epic.
The Bromeliad Trilogy by Terry Pratchett, usually known for his humorous science fiction for adults, is part satire, part parable and all adventure story. My husband and I (mostly my husband) first read these books out loud at bedtime to our older son some eight years ago. Now my husband is reading them out loud to our youngest, who is seven. Long after my son has fallen
Of course I wanted to read Wendy Mass's newest book The Candymakers the minute I saw it. I am a huge fan of all the books of hers I have read (reviews of which you can read by clicking here) and a huge fan of kid's books that have candy as a central plot theme. Since it came out in paperback in October, 2011 it has been flying off the shelves. And, since October, 2011, I have been reading it out
"We'd like you to make an author video." This was in an email my editor sent me a few weeks ago. And my response was a cheerful, "Sure!"
Of course, I wasn't all that sure. I mean, an author video--that meant I had to videotape myself. And to be honest, I'm the type of person who tries to avoid cameras at all cost. The isolation and ability to wear yoga pants all day are big perks to authorhood in my book.
Not that I couldn't have seen this coming--I mean, Harper had listed an author video as part of their marketing plan. Anyway, I made a quick video. Edited it on my basic editing software, the stuff that was already on my computer. Only it looked... Well, pretty terrible.
So I made a better video. And I thought I'd share with you what I learned, so you can be awesome right out the gate.
1. Yes, you need an author video
Maybe your publisher didn't ask you for it, but an author interview is a great tool in telling the world about the great book you wrote. If you're an indie writer: what a great tool to promote your work, right? Especially if you're a middle-grade writer, like me. Author videos allow librarians, teachers and parents to hear you talk about the story, and why kids should read it.
2. Watch some examples
The best way to decide what you want your video to look like is to watch other writers strut their stuff. Some look at the camera, some don't. Some look like they had a stylist, and some look like they just fell out of bed. Just search for 'author video' on Youtube, and it'll toss you examples. I've pasted mine below, but you can do much better.
3. State your talking points
What do you want to say about your book? If someone were to interview you, what do you wish they would ask? Unless you're Stephen King, try to find a good way to introduce yourself and the book. Keep it to the most important stuff. You really don't want your video to run much longer than three minutes.
4. Write a script
Think about how your video will play out. Imagine what slides you'll use (for questions), and what you'll say. 5. Buy some software, if you can afford it
I started my video on Moviemaker, but it's pretty limited in its templates. I tried freeware, and even considered (briefly, until I saw the pricetag) buying a Mac.
Bottom line: unless you're a techie, you want to buy some software with templates. This blog, my website, the video--they're all built with them. Templates are your friend--look for video editing software that gives you sound effects if possible. You'll want to be able to adjust the sound, so look for that function. I made my video with Pinnacle (which set me back $80), but there are several alternatives for about the same price.
6. Shoot lots of video
Unless you're Oprah, you probably need a little warm up time in front of the camera. Videotape yourself answering the same question five times--your software will allow you to edit it. You can use a basic camera; just make sure your sound quality holds up. Shooting outside may be a bit ambitious...
7. Get images and music
Make sure you own the rights to whatever images and music you use... Buy what you need, or ask friends (my Paris pictures were graciously donated by my sister).
8. Have fun
So maybe seeing yourself on video is not your favorite thing in the world. But enjoy the creative process! Play around with your slides, transitions, and other effects. Make sure they fit the mood/message of your book.
I hope this is helpful for you fellow authors! Here's my video; let me know when you make yours, and I'll post it here on the blog with your permission.
Of course, every boy isn’t a reluctant reader. A lot of boys love books. All we’re trying to do is get as many as possible to strike their pup-tents in camp #1 and pitch them in Camp #2.
To quote the great Jon Scieszka (which is something I do quite frequently and with stellar results):
“Boys aren’t believing that ‘Reading is wonderful.’ Reading is often difficult and boring for them. Let’s start with “Here is one book . . . you might like”
Not to name names, but a certain boy I know, who needs to clean up his room right now, used to be a bona fide reluctant reader when he was in first grade. These days, I have to order his light off at 10:30 so he can get some sleep, and usually I find him lying in bed reading BEFORE it’s time to get up on Saturdays.
What happened? Like the great Mr. Scieszka said, one book:
What’s so special about Sideways Stories from Wayside School?
Ask any boy who has read it, and he’ll tell you:
It has short, easy chapters.
It’s a lot of fun, and it’s not intimidating.
Ask me, and I’ll tell you those three things, plus one more:
It’s really sophisticated.
Sure, the scenarios are wacky. As you probably know, Wayside School was supposed to be thirty classrooms wide and one story high, but by mistake got built thirty stories high and one classroom wide. Among its many students are Bebe Gunn, Eric Bacon, Eric Fry, and Eric Ovens. In the first chapter, Mrs. Gorf, a colossally mean teacher, turns all her pupils into apples when they make her mad, until Jenny holds up a mirror in front of Mrs. Gorf and turns her into an apple, whereupon Louis the Yard Teacher eats her.
Louis, by the way, is based on the author himself, who used to be a playground monitor. Louis is nice to all the children and has a multicolored mustache. When Mrs. Drazil makes him shave, he becomes very by-the-book and makes the kids call him Mr. Louis. When the mustache grows back, he reverts to his much cooler self.
There are at least fifty characters in this book, all drawn very clearly in terms young readers can grasp quickly, and Sachar does not dumb down his humor. The intricate web of relationships he creates among characters and the comic conflicts he engineers between them would make Charles Dickens proud.
Sideways Stories from Wayside School proved to be a gateway book for my reluctant reader. He loved the jokes and adored the characters and read it again and again until he started to see far deeper into the complexity of fiction than he’d ever seen—than he’d ever imagined. He inhabited that book, he owned that book, he memorized that book, and it gave him the enthusiasm and
James Dashner was born and raised in Georgia but now lives and writes in the Rocky Mountains. He talked to us about The Maze Runner series and the books and movies that inspire his writing. He is also the author of the 13th Realityseries.
James Dashner:The Maze Runner trilogy is a story of a devastated future, and teenagers thrown into a terrifying experiment for mysterious reasons that are discovered as you go throughout the books. I think it’s a mix of adventure, mystery, and horror.
BS: Without giving anything away—as if you would—what can readers expect from The Kill Order? I’ve heard we should expect the unexpected.
JD: I’m excited for people to read it because my fans will get to see, firsthand, just how the world got into such bad shape and the reason the trilogy needed to exist in the first place.
BS: Each book within the trilogy is different, but all act as a piece of a larger puzzle. For readers that may be new to TheMaze Runner series (blasphemy) and end up with the prequel in their hands, what should they do? Put it down and start TheMaze Runner? Or should they go ahead and read it anyway and continue on with the trilogy upon completion?
JD: Oh, I definitely think people should read the trilogy first, no doubt. I think both the trilogy and the prequel will be more satisfying if done in that order.
BS: You have said that Lord of the Flies (one of my all-time favorite books) inspired your trilogy: “Instead of degenerating into animals, I wanted [the characters] to become more organized, more lawful, more determined, never losing hope. I hope that’s really how humans would react.” Did you have this thought prior to beginning the series while you wer
I first reviewed A Dog's Life in 2008. While stories about animals are hard for me to read because they always involve some kind of injury or cruelty, I read A Dog's Life because I noticed so many kids looking for a good dog story to read. Squirrel's story still lingers in my memory four years after reading and A Dog's Life continues to be a bestselling book at the store where I work, and all
The Fog Mound trilogy by Susan Schade and Jon Buller, bills itself as part graphic novel part heroic fantasy, and an adventure like no other! And it is all true! I LOVE this book! A week of reading books with squirrels as main characters - realistic squirrels, cartoonish squirrels, villainous quasi-medieval squirrels - has lead me here to Travels of Thelonious (published in
In his essay, “Hypocritical Theory,” in Manhood for Amateurs, Michael Chabon opens with the provocative, “I hate Captain Underpants.” Yes, Chabon agrees the popular series written by Dav Pilkey is “lively, well crafted and snappily designed,” and if he was a kid, he’d probably love the books, too. Really, how could he not enjoy the two potty-minded fourth grade boys who invent Super Diaper Baby? What he hates is that the series has co-opted the gross humor that kids use, typically out of earshot of adults. “The original spirit of mockery has been completely inverted; it is now the adult world that mocks children, implicitly and profitably, speaking its old language, invoking its bygone secret pleasures,” writes Chabon.
If Chabon has trouble with Captain Underpants, he’s probably having a big hissy fit over the scores of books that have followed suit. Writers and publishers have taken note that humor is the way to a kid’s (especially a boy’s) reading heart. Just this morning, as I drove the carpool of third-grade boys to school, one boy was holding court by reading from TheEncyclopedia of Immaturity(full of silly tricks and pranks—how to make noises with different body parts; how to really annoy your older sibling; and the all-important, how to hang a spoon off your nose).
Since the genie has been let out of the bottle, and since April is National Humor Month, I’ve put together a list of some recently published books that will keep your kid laughing (and reading).
Erik Craddock is out with #7 in his Stone Rabbit graphic novel series, with its central character a zany, quick-witted rabbit. In #7 Dragon Boogie, when the electricity goes out, Stone Rabbit and his buddies have to play a boring board game, Dragon & Stuff. They unknowingly roll a pair of magical die, and poof! they are transported to the world of the game itself, with wizards and knights, and a dragon with a “bad case of stink breath” who takes offense at being called fat. Eventually they confront the Lord of Darkness, and the fight is on, with one of their weapons being, of course, a “mighty fart.” (Ages 7-10. Publisher: Random House Children’s Books)
Fourth, fifth and sixth graders often tell me they want a funnybook. They love the Wimpy Kid books and have read all of them. They've read the Big Nate books. And they want more! If your kids gobble up funny books and are ready for something even wackier, look for Tom Angleberger's newest book Fake Mustache.
Lenny Flem, Jr. is your average 7th grader. Nothing exciting happens in his life. That is until his best friend, Casper Bengue turns out to be an evil mad genius who tries to take over the ENTIRE COUNTRY! It's up to Lenny and Jodie O'Rodeo, a former TV child star, to save the day. It all starts when Lemmy lends Casper the money to buy a fake mustache. This isn't any old cheap fake mustache - it's the Heidelberg Handlebar #7, a mustache that's so powerful that Casper is able to convince anyone of anything when he puts it on!
With his fake mustache firmly in place, Casper takes over the local toy company, then the local town council. Now, as Fako Mustacho, Casper is able to amass great wealth stealing banks, hire a mob of strongmen to protect him, and set about to steal the US presidential election! Only Lenny knows the real truth and is immune to the mustache's evil power. With the help of Jodie O'Rodeo, the preteen cowgirl queen, Lenny is determined to stop Casper and thwart his evil plan. You'll get a sense of Angleberger's style from these opening pages:
For some extra fun, take a look at Tom Angleberger with his own fake mustache! He's definitely a guy who loves a good joke. Kids are definitely going to recognize his name as the author behind the popular Origami Yoda series.
Flamingnet scored The Rock of Ivanore 9 out of 10, and awarded it a Flamingnet Top Choice Award.
“Young readers…will delight in this opening title in The Celestine Chronicles series, which delivers a fantasy adventure for a reluctant readership.” – Booklist
“Marcus is a hero who engages challenges in a way that is both human and admirable.” – Publisher’s Weekly
“This is a swift and compelling epic that readers of high fantasy will love!” — Tony Abbott, author of The Secrets of Droon
“Magic! Swords! Mysterious cloaked figures! A good choice for middle-grade fantasy lovers.” – Marissa Burt, author of Storybound
“If we could take the tone of Lord of the Rings and make it 10-year-old friendly, we’d have The Rock of Ivanore.” – Shannon O’ Donnell, Project Mayhem
“Fast paced and very engaging.” – So Simply Sara
“Elementary school libraries and middle school libraries can confidently add this book to their collections.” – Cerulean Librarian
ABOUT THE ROCK OF IVANORE:
The annual Great Quest is about to be announced in Quendel, a task that will determine the future of Marcus and the other boys from the village who are coming of age. The wizard Zyll commands them to find the Rock of Ivanore, but he doesn’t tell them what the Rock is exactly or where it can be found. Marcus must reach deep within himself to develop new powers of magic and find the strength to survive the wild lands and fierce enemies he encounters as he searches for the illusive Rock. If he succeeds, he will live a life of honor; if he fails, he will live a life of menial labor in shame. With more twists and turns than a labyrinth, and a story in which nothing is as it seems, this tale of deception and discovery keeps readers in suspense until the end.
Middle readers will find that The Rock of Ivanore fits nicely among the traditional fantasies they so enjoy. They will also appreciate its fresh and inventive take on the genre.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Laurisa White Reyes has been writing since the age of 5 when she wrote her first poem on a scrap of poster board. After earning a degree in English at California State University at Northridge, she spent thirteen years writing for various magazines and newspapers, working as a book editor, and teaching creative writing. She gave up all that six years ago to follow her lifelong dream of writing novels. Her first book, The Rock of Ivanore, released in May 2012.
Besides writing, Laurisa is also a voracious reader. She also loves musical theater, chocolate, sushi, ancient history, bearded dragons, and rain storms. She lives in Southern California with her husband, 5 children, 4 birds, 2 lizards, 2 turtles, 1 fish, 1 dog, and a partridge in a pear tree.
The school year is winding down and each year I look at our circulating statistics to see what our students are checking out. Numbers really do reveal patterns - books that catch fire a certain year, and trends year to year. I'd like to share our most popular books by category in our library. I'll start with the most popular category - graphic novels, move on to fiction, then share beginning readers, picture books and nonfiction.
I teach in a diverse, urban elementary school in Berkeley, California. We have about 300 students, and checked out over 14,000 books during the 2011-2012 school year. Our students check out two books each week for one week.
Our students adore graphic novels. They eat them up, passing them from friend to friend, checking them out again and again. Our most popular graphic novels include new favorites as well as popular ones from the past few years. Interestingly, even though the Tintin movie came out this year, none of our Titin books were checked out by large numbers of students. Here are our top circulating graphic novels:
1. Sidekicks, by Dan Santat (3 copies circulated 63 times) Our students have loved the action and adventure that Roscoe and Fluffy get into, as they try to prove to Captain America that they will be loyal, steadfast sidekicks. This graphic novel pulls in readers from as young as 1st and 2nd grade all the way up to 5th grade. Great art, great story, great characters = a winning combination from Dan Santat.
2. Smile, by Raina Telgemeier (3 copies circulated 57 times) Based on Raina Telgemeier's real life dental drama, Smile captures the ups and downs of peer pressure, anxiety and friendship issues in middle school. This book appeals to girls who love the realistic friendship story, boys who love the visual storytelling, all students who can relate to the school drama. Our students are thrilled to learn that Raina has a new book out this fall: watch for Drama in September!