Monday, September 28, 2009

Third Graders Ask the Best Questions!

I visited with the third graders at Blanchard Elementary School today. They were a great audience and had some excellent questions about writing and books. I was so excited to hear how much they enjoyed the Georgia habitat books. It's really a wonderful feeling when your audience loves to read what you wrote!

Our topic for today was the hats a writer wears. You don't start out wearing the author hat. You start with the investigator hat, the one that leads to an idea and the information relating to it. Then you move on to the writer hat and work, work, work! After that comes the editor's hat. Read it out loud. Revise. Get it right.

It would be nice if writing proceeded in a nice straight line like that, but it generally doesn't. So we talked about moving back and forth between the hats, finding the right amount of information, the best way of presenting it, and filling in the holes.

Tricks of the trade: I had asked the students to bring a piece of their writing with them. I gave everyone a piece of tracing paper to place over their writing. Then we placed a pencil on the beginning capital word and drew a straight line to the period, continuing until each sentence was lined through. When you lift the tracing paper, you can see the length of your sentences. The trick is to realize how long your sentences are and make sure that you vary their length. A long one, a short one, a couple of medium length, another short one. Variety is the spice of life, and it goes a long way towards improving a composition.

After signing a few books (and a few arms!), I said goodbye. Abby, my sweet guide, walked me back to the office and sent me on my way. It was a good day.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Honoring the Soldiers

I spent most of this week at the Infantry Conference downtown at the trade center. It's a mind boggling collection of technology and soldiers. From flashlights and water containers to unmanned aerial vehicles and drones.

Technologically, this is a terrible photo, and yet there is something about it that I like. It gives you a feel for the constant motion on the trade show floor.

Then on Thursday, my dad went with about 100 other World War II veterans on the Honor Flight to Washington, DC. They visited the World War II memorial and saw plenty of other sites while they were there. On their return home, about 1400 people cheered their arrival at the airport. Sons and daughters cheered, grandchildren held homemade banners, and great grandchildren waved flags. I've never seen a more surprised and delighted crowd of veterans. My dad said it took two hours for him to get from the plane to his car. He shook hands, hugged necks, and was saluted by ROTC students and Army band members. It was quite a day.

Since many of the schools I work with in the Delaney sales job are in the vicinity of Fort Benning, one or both parents of many students serve in the military. My recommended titles for the week salute the sacrifices of our fallen soldiers. War Memorials is a new set from Rourke Publishing recommended for grades four through eight. Authors Jennifer Burrows and Maureen Robins do a great job presenting basic history about each war, along with detailed information on the memorial.

Titles in the set include:
Arlington National Cemetary
Korean War Memorial
USS Arizona Memorial
Vietnam War Memorial
World War I Memorial
World War II Memorial

These are brand new, so AR levels are not in yet.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Little Boys Love Trucks

When my youngest son was small, his favorite book was a tattered copy of an old book (1953 pub date) by Norman Bate, called Who Built the Highway? In the story, Big Town and Little Town had a discussion about why there was no road connecting them. They decided to wake up the people and tell them to build a road!

I became intimately familiar with every hill and valley between Big Town and Little Town. I read that book so many times, I could name the road-making machines in order, as each one claimed it would build the highway.

The intricate sepia-type drawings of bulldozer and earthmover, power shovel and tampers, grader, truck, roller, subgrader, roadlayer, and finishers made up in detail for what they lacked in color.

My son still loves trucks. And I still look for truck books whenever I'm in a bookstore. Only now, I'm checking them out for my grandsons, who are all long distances away. I've found a great way to stay connected to them. I choose a couple of my favorite books for them at each birthday and read them onto a CD, complete with a bell for page turns. It gives them good books to read and keeps my voice in their heads until the next real visit.

I recently read this one for my grandson in Texas. I loved it, and I know he will, too.

And of course, for my library clients, who can never seem to find enough truck books for their young readers, this is a wonderful set.

Construction Zone, from Capstone Publishers, is a fine addition to any library. Titles are all written by Joanne Early Macken. The photos are stunning. Text is simple and clear. Young truck lovers will enjoy reading these for themselves.

Titles included in the set are:
  • Building a Road
  • Building a House
  • Building a Skyscraper
  • Building a Bridge
  • Construction Tools
  • Construction Crews
  • Demotition
  • Digging Tunnels
AR levels range from 1.5 to 2.3

Monday, September 14, 2009

My Newest Book

My new book from State Standards Publishing is here. I love the way it turned out. The photos my editor chose to accompany the text are wonderful.

Greece and Our American Heritage helps young readers understand how people thousands of years ago and thousands of miles away influenced their country, their government, and they way they live.

It was fun to write. I hope kids find it fun to read.

Guided reading and AR levels are pending, but they should come in right at third grade.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

The Power of Story

When my youngest daughter was about nine, we read Blue Willow together. I honestly don't remember too much about the plot. It wasn't a book that stayed with me the way it stayed with my daughter.

The main character, Janey, traveled with her migrant father and step-mother, living in poverty and longing for a real home. Her most prized possession was a Blue Willow plate. The book has a wonderfully sappy, happy ending that little girls love.

Sometime after reading the book, we were in an antique store and I showed her the Blue Willow plates stacked in an old hutch. We picked around until we found an uncracked dessert plate and made our purchase. The plate with the tiny blue bridge and the blue doves hung on her bedroom wall for years.

Gradually, we began to collect other pieces. A plate here and there. A cup and saucer. Some from England. Some from Japan. When she was about 12, we were in an antique store in North Carolina and stumbled upon a canister set. She wanted it so badly, she agreed that it would be her Christmas present that year. So we bought it and hid it away until December. It was a difficult Christmas for a twelve year old who had so many wants, but got her desired Blue Willow. And what does a twelve year old do with a canister set anyway?

She wrapped it carefully in newspaper, packed it in a box and stored it away.

For ten years.

That daughter has now graduated from college and has her first real job. Last weekend, we moved her to Mississippi and her first real apartment. She unpacked her box and set out her Blue Willow canister set on her kitchen counter.

I'm not sure what she remembers of Janey and her journey, but as my daughter begins her trek into independent adult life, she carries a bit of Blue Willow with her.

That's the power of story that every writer hopes to achieve.