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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Six plus one traits of writing, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 8 of 8
1. For the Love of Pete (An Orphan Train Story) by Ethel Barker


This is a book I am EXTREMELY excited to tell you about for several reasons. . .

  • I helped to edit this book in its beginning stages in 2009, as part of my Editor 911 business.
  • It is a terrific HISTORICAL FICTION book for upper middle grade/tween/younger YA audience by a delightful author.
  • Ice Cube Press is a wonderful small publisher that also published DIVORCE GIRL (see my post:http://margodill.com/blog/2012/07/30/the-divorce-girl-blog-tour-and-giveaway-ya-or-adult/ ) which is one of the best books I read last year!
  • You can use this book to teach history AND writing lessons such as voice. There are TERRIFIC voices throughout this book.

*Historical fiction, upper-middle grade/tween/younger YA (set during the Orphan Train days)
*Three main characters: a street-smart boy, an older sister, and a younger sister–all three have chapters in their voice
*Rating: Well, is it appropriate to give a rating to a book you helped to edit? :) For the Love of Pete is a very well-written book with an interesting story/adventure that will appeal to both boys and girls–perfect for the classroom and/or home school setting!

Short, short summary:

The book starts out with a bang! Iris and her sister Rosie have to flee their New York tenement when their mother is murdered. This puts them out on the street, where they meet a “street rat”, Pete (love this character!). The three come to rely on each other and become friends. When they are put on the Orphan Train and taken to Iowa, they hope to stay together–but adults have different ideas about where the children should be and with whom. However, you can’t squash a child’s spirit or determination, and Pete, Iris, and Rosie work hard to get back together again.

So, what do I do with this book?

1. Compare a nonfiction book, such as Orphan Train Rider: One Boy’s True Story by Andrea Warren, to Ethel Barker’s book. What makes For the Love of Pete historical fiction? What true facts can you learn from it about the Orphan Train? Can you tell the author did research to make the characters experience the same things as the actual boys on the Orphan Train? (The back of the book does have a small section on the Orphan Train with a photo of boys living on the street.)

2. As mentioned, this book is told in three different voices–Pete, Rosie, and Iris. Ethel Barker does an amazing job with each voice, and this is a perfect example of voice to use with a six plus one traits lesson. You can read a bit of each chapter to the students, and without looking, they can tell you which character is speaking. Which voice do they hear? What makes that voice unique? Is it word choice? Sentence fluency? Which voice do they like best? Have a discussion about voice using this book as a starting point (since it has such a strong voice!).

3. This is also a great book to study characters, motivation, and feelings. Each character has their own motivation throughout the story (and it changes a bit as the characters develop). For example, ask students what is Pete’s motivation in the beginning of the book for helping the sisters. How does he follow through on this? Why does this motivation fit his character? As for feelings, how does Iris feel toward the end of the book? (Sad and determined) Why?

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2. Finding My Place and the 6 + 1 Traits of Writing

I am currently creating a short guide (PDF or Word) that shows how you can use my book, Finding My Place: One Girl’s Strength at Vicksburg (ages 9 to 12) in 6 + 1 Traits of Writing lessons. The guide will be free for the teachers at any workshops I do at schools and if a teacher/home school parent buys a copy of my book. To give a little preview, I thought I would show an excerpt of each trait on the next few Wednesdays. So, here we go. . .

IDEA is one of the 6 + 1 traits of writing. It is important to start with a good idea when you write because it makes it easier for the words to flow and more interesting for the reader. Usually the first idea we come up with is not our best idea. We need to dig deeper to find a unique idea. You can do this with brainstorming, word webs, free writing, talking to a friend, or even research. For example with my book, I wanted to write about the Civil War for kids, but there are already a ton of books out there about the Civil War. SO, I had to dig deeper, and I did some research. Then, I decided to tell a story from the Confederate viewpoint, make the main character a citizen and a girl instead of a solider/drummer and a boy, and I set it during one specific battle that had extremely interesting elements, such as the citizens living in caves to protect themselves from the Yankees’ bombs.

In Finding My Place: One Girl’s Strength at Vicksburg, Anna, my 13-year-old main character, loves to write. She writes about events that happen in her daily life, poems, fiction stories, and letters. In one section toward the end of the book (page 134, chapter 21), Michael, Anna’s older brother, asks her to tell a story she has written. At first, she doesn’t want to because she doesn’t think it is a very good idea. Then when she does tell it, she realizes she never really ended the story. She started with the premise of a selfish orphan living with an elderly woman, who delivers food to his room. One day the food stops coming, and the orphan gets angry. He must leave his room to investigate.

Final Finding My Place CoverMichael asks her what happened, and Anna replies, “Yes, she had a heart attack. I never really finished the story.”

Here’s where you can use the IDEA trait with your students and this premise. Give them 10 minutes to brainstorm an ending to Anna’s story. Give them a few questions to think about: What could have happened to the elderly lady? What did the orphan do next? Does the elderly lady necessarily have to be deceased? Could she be teaching the orphan a lesson? And so on.

After the 10-minute brainstorm session, have students discuss their ideas with a partner. Then have a class discussion, where you make a list of the different ideas.

When concluding the lesson, talk to students about a fiction story they have written and ask them to think about their ending. Are they satisfied with it? Could they use these techniques to come up with an alternate (and perhaps better!) ending? Work on these new endings during the next writing period.

For more information on FINDING MY PLACE and to read an excerpt, please go to this link: http://margodill.com/blog/finding-my-place/

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3. Winner of The Christmas Village and My Sister is My Best Friend

Before I talk about the new TRILINGUAL picture book, My Sister is My Best Friend by Nicole Weaver (Guardian Angel Publishing), I would like to announce the winner of Melissa Goodwin’s book, The Christmas Village. The winner is Beth F.! Thank you, Beth, for your comment, and happy holidays to everyone who left a comment and shared a tradition.

Now on to. . .My Sister is My Best Friend:

*Picture book, contemporary fiction for preschool through 1st graders
*Two twin girls as main characters
*Rating: A sweet book, especially for anyone (young or old!) with sisters. Plus, children can start to learn some Spanish and French while reading the book. It celebrates FAMILY!

Short, short summary:

Nicole Weaver’s book begins with these lines: “I am lucky my sister is my best friend. We do everything together.” And then the Spanish and French are listed neatly underneath the English AND accompanied by super-cute illustrations by Clara Batton Smith. The book goes on (it’s more like a concept book about family/sisters than a story with a problem/solution) to tell the interesting things the sisters like to do together such as playing with their dog, riding the see-saw at the park, and chasing butterflies. Again, each page contains a cute illustration and the text in English, French, and Spanish. A great book for a classroom or for a home library!

So, what do I do with this book?

1. There’s an automatic lesson built into this book, which is always great for any parent, teacher, or librarian. Children can see how English translates into French and Spanish. They can try to pick out the important words like sister and friend. If you know someone who can speak Spanish/French, invite them in to read the book with a proper accent! :)

2. Your students/child can make a similar book about their sister, brother, mom, dad, cousin, and so on. For example, one child could create: My Mother is My Best Friend; another could write My Cousin is My Best Friend. After children write a few pages (or just illustrate if they are preschoolers), they can share their pages/books with classmates.

3. Nicole Weaver has included some wonderful details and word choice in her picture book. For example, take this page (in English): “Sometimes just for fun, we shriek and run as fast as we can …pretending to be orangutans.” The six plus one traits of writing, Word Choice, celebrates words such as “shriek” or the choice of pretending to be orangutans, instead of just monkeys. Both of these words present clear images in the readers’ mind. What other examples of good word choice can readers find in the book?

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4. The Adventurous Deeds of Deadwood Jones by Helen Hemphill

*Young adult, historical fiction novel
*Teenage, African-American cowboy as main character
*Rating: I’m so glad I found Deadwood Jones at my local library! It’s a great book about a very interesting topic and will really appeal to boys.

Short, short summary:

(FROM BOOK JACKET–sorry, busy weekend!): When Prometheus Jones wins a horse with a raffle ticket he got from Pernie Boyd and LaRue Dill, he knows things won’t go smoothly. No way are those two rednecks going to let a black man, even a freeman from the day of his birth, keep that horse. So as soon as things get ugly, he jumps on the horse, pulls his cousin Omer up behind him, and heads off. They hook up with a cattle drive out of Texas heading for Deadwood, South Dakota. Prometheus is a fine hand with a horse and not so bad with a gun, and both skills prove useful as the trip north throws every twist and turn imaginable at the young cowpokes. (It’s a good, old cowboy story! :) )

So, what do I do with this book?

1. Allow students to keep a reading response journal while reading this book. There are many issues in it–from the treatment of black cowboys/slaves to traveling West at a young age–when students come upon a passage they feel strongly about, they should write about their feelings in the reading response journal–BEFORE discussing them. Many times, the discussion will be stronger if reactions to the novel are written down first.

2. Compare/contrast the author’s note in the back of the book with what happened in the novel. Did Helen Hemphill do a good job of sharing the “truth” in this historical fiction novel? Students could also do their own research about cowboys if so desired.

3. How does the author paint a picture of the “Wild West” with her words? What type of word choice does she use? Study strong word choice selections as part of a 6 + 1 traits of writing lesson.

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5. When You Forget To Blog

Forget-me-nots by ThirdHandArt www.flickr.com

So, I was in the bathroom, just home from the Little Gym with my daughter and thinking about nap time, when I realized, OH MY GOD! I FORGOT TO DO MY BLOG!

I never forget to do my blog. On Sunday and Wednesday nights, I always read a book or prepare a guest post, blog tour, etc and schedule them to appear the next day. I’ve been doing this for about 14 months now. (That tells you about how old my daughter is–before her, I blogged a little more.) Yesterday, I forgot.

So in the bathroom, I thought of all these things I could do–read and do it real quick during nap–no, I had to finish my critique group critiques. Okay, I could do it tonight–no, I have critique group and then some other stuff to take care of when I get home. Okay, what can I do?

How about. . .be honest? I am tired. I am staying home with my daughter AND working from home on writing. I have editing clients, am teaching two online classes, and had to clean my house. I had bills to pay, photos to order from Walmart since October 2, and I can go on. I don’t want to bore you. IN all of this, I forgot my blog.

So I decided to do this quick, honest post and leave you with two meaningful things. One, I did manage to remember to do a blog interview for WOW! with Lori the Change Agent who is helping people just LIKE ME change their lives. She has a book, an audio series, a free video coaching series and more that she offers women to figure out what they want their lives to look like and change them to get there. It is a great interview, and she is an inspiration. You can check that interview out at this link! You can USE her book to change YOUR life!

The second thing I’ll leave you with is an activity I liked to do with my students when I was teaching. You could do it in a classroom or at home with home school. Find 5 books you like and your child knows. Read the beginning and rate it on a scale of 1 to 5. A beginning is SUPPOSED to introduce the reader to the character/problem/setting and KEEP THE READER INTERESTED, so he or she will keep reading. Some GREAT books have AWFUL beginnings. It helps your child to be a more critical reader and to write better beginnings, which is a 6 + 1 traits of writing organizational trait exercise.

Must run–nap is over. I will have a regular blog post for on Monday.

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6. The Divorce Girl (Blog Tour and Giveaway): YA or Adult?

The Divorce Girl: A Novel of Art and Soul by Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg
Publisher: Ice Cube Press

I’m excited to introduce to you–The Divorce Girl as part of the WOW! Women On Writing blog tour. What a great, great book. I was captivated on page one and couldn’t wait to get to the end of the book. I recommend this book to ANYONE! I have a print copy to give away–from the author. Please leave a question and/or comment about the book by Sunday, August 5 at 8:00 pm CST to be entered to win (US mailing addresses only, please.)

Here’s my review:

From the first page of The Divorce Girl: A Novel of Art and Soul by Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, readers will discover that it’s a well-written novel with a lively, witty, teenage voice narrating the story. Mirriam-Goldberg captivates you on page one and doesn’t let go until the end of the book. She includes unique, well-rounded characters; unusual settings; and plenty of interesting subplots as well as an understanding of how the world and people work, especially during and after a divorce.

Mirriam-Goldberg is the 2009-2012 Poet Laureate of Kansas. Her love of words and ability to string them together to create a masterpiece shines through in this novel. Simply stated: “It’s a good book!” Although divorce is a subject that has been written about thousands of times in YA and women’s fiction, The Divorce Girl will still fascinate readers who will be drawn into the story because of Mirriam-Goldberg’s writing.

It centers on Deborah, a high school student in New Jersey in the 1970s and oldest daughter of Jewish parents, who announce that they are getting divorced with no huge surprise to her. Her parents have been fighting for years, and it became progressively worse after a baby sibling died of SIDS.

At first when the divorce is announced, Deborah’s father takes a special interest in her, leaving the two younger (surviving) children with their mother. Her dad takes her regularly to eat at a diner, where a Greek hostess, Fatima, works. It soon becomes clear that he has an ulterior motive to these dad-daughter dinners. But Deborah doesn’t seem to mind. She likes the attention from her father, who is talking to her as if she is an equal.

Because of the special attention from her father and the tensions that rise with her mother during the divorce proceedings, Deborah winds up choosing to live with her father and Fatima, which causes many problems within the family, including with her grandparents.

Soon, she realizes that her father isn’t quite the man she thought he was or that he presents himself to be in public; but she doesn’t feel like she has anywhere else to go. He works her hard, too—at home, cooking and cleaning, and at a weekend auction, similar to a flea market, selling large-sized clothing.

The good thing is Deborah loves photography and has quite a talent for it, and her father allows her to take a photography course. He also allows her to get involved with a youth group at the local, and somewhat liberal, temple.

These two outlets and the people there basically save her soul from destruction, as she lives with an abusive father and is estranged from her mother.

Although this book is written with a teenage narrator, the author state

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7. WOW! Blog Tour: Writing (OR WORKING) and Motherhood

I am happy to host author Nava Atlas today and her book: The Literary Ladies’ Guide to the Writing Life. She has written a wonderful post on how juggling motherhood and a career has been a struggle for centuries! Her book is amazing because she poured through letters, journals, essays, memoirs, and more to find quotes from 12 classic women authors to create a book that is an inspiration for writers everywhere. This would be a perfect book for a high school English teacher or college writing teacher. I use my copy when giving presentations and for daily inspiration. Read what these authors had to say about motherhood. Then click on the Amazon link below to find out more about the book!

Classic Authors on Motherhood and the Juggling Act

by Nava Atlas

When discussing the challenges faced by women authors of the past in The Literary Ladies’ Guide to the Writing Life, one of the questions I’m asked with startling regularity is why it has always been so difficult to master the work/life/motherhood balance. It was grueling for Harriet Beecher Stowe in the nineteenth century; and while it may have been somewhat easier for Madeleine L’Engle in the twentieth, it was just as guilt-inducing. For those of us who write today, there are still no easy answers.

I’m not one to bandy about gender stereotypes, but it’s hard to dispute that in traditional relationships women still bear the greatest share of childcare and household management. This is tricky enough in situations where both partners work, and even more so in instances where the woman’s work is something she actually likes and that gives her creative gratification. The impulse is always to put others first—if not our kids, then our parents, or our partner, or our community. How dare I take this time to write, our guilty mind frets, when there’s so much to do, and when so-and-so needs me?

In times past, if a woman wanted to give her all to her writing pursuits, she often had to forego family life. Fewer than half of well-known women authors of past generations were mothers. Of the twelve authors I focus on in this book, only four were mothers (Harriet Beecher Stowe, Madeleine L’Engle, L.M. Montgomery, and George Sand), and that’s a fairly accurate reflection of how the profession was in the past. Now, more women writers than ever want to enjoy a fulfilling creative life as well as a family. It’s comforting to learn that women authors of the distant and not-so-distant past, like most of us, muddled through as best they could, and dealt with daily disruptions and longer interruptions. And yes, they felt guilty, acknowledged it, and wrote anyway. They just couldn’t help it.

Harriet Beecher Stowe was the mother of seven children. Despite the rigors of raising a large family, attending to household duties, and doing paid writing to help with expenses, she burned to write the anti-slavery story that would become Uncle Tom’s Cabin. She expressed her desire for a private place to write and for more domestic help. She also wrote of her guilt, as in an 1841 letter to her husband: “Our children are just coming to the age when everything depends on my efforts. They are delicate in health, and nervous and excitable and need a mother’s whole attention. Can I lawfully divide my attention by literary efforts?”

Stowe was devastated when her toddler son died of cholera, but later, she claime

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8. Oh, the Thinks You Can Think! by Dr. Seuss

*Picture book for preschool through adult
*The THINKS you can THINK as main characters
*Rating: My one-year-old daughter carries Oh, the Thinks You Can Think! around with her and looks at this book all the time. I’m sure it’s the pictures, but I’d love to think it’s the whole concept that she gets. ;)

Short, short summary:

Every now and again, I like to blog about a Dr. Seuss book. I know kids love to read them still and I know many teachers/home school parents/librarians who use them with kids. In this one, Dr. Seuss is celebrating all the excellent ideas our brains can come up with. He is writing about how wonderful imagination is and the sense of wonder that some kids have. Dr. Seuss does it in his special way with made-up creatures and silly rhymes, but that’s what makes this book even more special–it has that Dr. Seuss charm. Example: You can think about red. You can think about pink. You can think up a horse. Oh, the thinks you can think!

So, what do I do with this book?

1. Ask students, “What are the THINKS you can THINK?” Ask them to make a list or draw a picture showing some things they are thinking about. They can be real (like soccer practice or a way to fix a problem with a friend) or make-believe (a new creature that people can have as a pet).

2. Read and discuss each page of the book during a second read through. What does it mean “you can think up a horse”? Why does Seuss want you to “think and wonder”? And so on. With students and children, you want to really talk up creativity and imagination!

3. It’s fun to discuss Dr. Seuss’s word choice and his made-up creatures. You can tie the word choice to a 6 + 1 traits lesson on word choice and discuss why the word choice works in this book (or maybe some students think it doesn’t). You can also discuss what some of the words mean such as: Da-Dake, Schlopp, and Guff.

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