A Conversation with Cordelia Jensen & Laurie Morrison, Books Between, Episode 50

Episode Outline:

Listen to the episode here!

Intro

Hi everyone and welcome to Books Between – a podcast to help teachers, parents, and librarians connect kids between 8-12 to books they’ll love.  I’m your host, Corrina Allen – a 5th grade teacher, a mom of two girls, and a new aunt!! A few weeks ago, my brother and his wife had a beautiful baby girl they named Nora and has been so wonderful to have a baby in the family again!

This is Episode #50 and today I am sharing with you a conversation with Laurie Morrison and Cordelia Jensen – authors of  Every Shiny Thing   

But first I am excited to tell you that today’s episode is sponsored by MoxieReader – a literacy app that’s like a fitness tracker for your reading life. It gives teachers insights unnamedinto their students’ reading, customized recommendations, and a way for kids to set and work toward their own reading goals in a way that is engaging and fun. My 5th graders and I have been trying it out over the past couple of weeks and they really, really loved it!  They had armfuls of books they were excited to scan in and share with each other. I really feel like the end of the year is the perfect time to try something new that will energize your class and launch them into a summer full of reading. So head over to MoxieReader.com and try out their $7 for 3 months special by using the code welovereading!

A few announcements to pass along! The Twitter chat for  Every Shiny Thing will be on Monday, June 5th at 8pm EST using #MGBookClub.

There is also a fantastic educator’s guide available for the novel and a Flipgrid for the book where you can watch videos of Laurie and Cordelia and submit your own to ask questions about the book!

Our next Middle Grade at Heart book club picks are The Mad Wolf’s Daughter in June, Just Under the Clouds in July, and Where the Watermelons Grow in August.

Also – Ann Braden and Jarrett Lerner have teamed up with some other educators to launch the #KidsNeedMentors project to connect authors with classrooms through book deliveries, postcard exchanges, Skype visits and lots more exciting things.

A quick reminder that the outline of today’s interview and links to every book we chat about along with other awesome middle grade content can be found right at MGBookVillage.org.

 

Cordelia Jensen & Laurie Morrison – Interview Outline

 

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Our special guests this week are Cordelia Jensen and Laurie Morrison – authors of the newly released middle grade novel  Every Shiny Thing .

 

Take a listen…

EVERY SHINY THING

Let’s start with introductions

Can you take a moment to tell us about yourself?

How did you two meet and decide to collaborate on this book?

Tell us about Every Shiny Thing!

Let’s talk about Lauren first since we meet her character first – as she is thinking about saying goodbye to her brother Ryan as her family is leaving him off at a therapeutic school for kids with autism. And we learn right away how upset Lauren feels about this.

Laurie – can you talk a bit about any experiences you had or research you did to write your part of the novel?

One of the things that’s been on my mind lately as a teacher and as someone who is always searching for books that are mirrors for children’s own lives is the impact of Adverse Childhood Experiences. And oh does Sierra have so many of those – her mother is an alcoholic, her father is in jail, and she is living with a foster family.

Cordelia – how did Sierra’s character first come to you and how did you find that balance between her vulnerability and her resilience?

There are two images in Sierra’s section of the novel that are so powerful to me – the kaleidoscope and the garden. That symbolism of Sierra’s and Lauren’s and all of our lives fragmenting and reflecting and then cycling back together….

Can you talk a bit about those parts of your novel and how you came to include them in Sierra’s story?

One part of Every Shiny Thing that fascinated me was the Quaker school that the girls attend! And the Quaker values they study – can you talk a little but about that aspect of the book?
I really noticed how much of school life your novel got right.

Did that come from your own experiences as educators or did you do some research for that aspect of the book?

**BONUS SPOILER SECTION: Cordelia and Laurie and I discussed the ending of the novel, and if you’d like to hear that conversation, I moved that part of the recording to after the end credits of today’s episode at the 37:12 mark.

YOUR WRITING LIFE

What was your collaboration process like for writing Every Shiny Thing? Did you meet in person or do most of your work online?

What’s next for each of you?

 

YOUR READING LIFE

Was there an adult in your life who made you the reader you are today?

What have you been reading lately?

Links:

Cordelia Jensen’s website – http://www.cordeliajensen.com

Laurie Morrison’s website – https://lauriemorrisonwrites.com

Cordelia on Twitter and Instagram

Laurie on Twitter and Instagram

Good Morning Sunshine Breakfast Cookies

Cranberry Orange Scones

 

Books & Authors We Chatted About:

NeuroTribes (Steve Silberman)

You Go First (Erin Entrada Kelly)

Star Crossed (Barbara Dee)

The Female Persuasion (Meg Wolitzer)

Well That Was Awkward (Rachel Vail)

The Science of Breakable Things (Tae Keller)

The Girl With Two Hearts

Dumplin (Julie Murphy)

One for the Murphys (Lynda Mullaly Hunt)

Forget Me Not (Ellie Terry)

Closing

Alright, that wraps up our show this week!

Alright, that wraps up our show this week!  And thanks again to MoxieReader for supporting the podcast this month – definitely check out their website for an engaging way for your students to build their reading resume.

If you have a question about how to connect kids between 8-12 to books they’ll love or a suggestion about a topic we should cover, I would love to hear from you. You can email me at booksbetween@gmail.com or message me on Twitter/Instagram at the handle @Books_Between.

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Books Between is a proud member of the Education Podcast Network. This networkfeatures podcasts for educators, created by educators. For more great content visit edupodcastnetwork.com

Thanks and see you soon!  Bye!

CorrinaAllen

Corrina Allen is a 5th grade teacher in Central New York and mom of two energetic tween girls. She is passionate about helping kids discover who they are as readers.

Corrina is the host of Books Between – a podcast to help teachers, parents, and librarians connect children between 8 and 12 to books they’ll love.

Find her on Twitter at @corrinaaallen or Instagram at @Corrina_Allen.

 

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3 Spring Releases & a Conversation with Ann Braden and Saadia Faruqi, Books Between, Episode 49

Episode Outline:

Listen to the episode here!

Intro

Hi everyone and welcome to Books Between – a podcast to help teachers, parents, and librarians connect kids between 8-12 to books they’ll love.  I’m your host, Corrina Allen – a 5th grade teacher, a mom of two girls who are 8 and 11, and feeling extraordinarily lucky on this Mother’s Day to have my mom in my life. And having a mother who is and has always been such a staunch supporter of my reading life.  

This is Episode #49 and today I’m discussing three new middle grade releases, and then I’ll share with you a conversation with authors Ann Braden and Saadia Faruqi from the Lifelines Podcast.

Alright – announcements!  I hope you have been loving the May Middle Grade at Heart Book Club pick  Every Shiny Thing as much as I have.  Laurie Morrison and Cordelia Jensen will on the podcast soon so if you have a question you want me to ask them, please let me know! In June we’ll be reading The Mad Wolf’s Daughter by Diane Magras and July’s pick is Just Under the Clouds by Melissa Sarno.

And – I hope you’ve been as inspired as I have by the Educator Spotlight interviews at the MGBookVillage site. We have lots more coming, so keep an eye out!MGBookVillageEducatorsMonth

A quick reminder that the outline of today’s interview and a full transcript of all the other parts of this show can be found at MGBookVillage.org – including links to every topic and book we mention. I know you are busy and I want to make it effortless for you to find things!

 

Book Talk – Three Fantastic Spring Releases

This week we are back to some book talks! And instead of having them fit a particular theme, I thought I’d simply share with you three really great recent releases from this past spring. They are Playing Atari with Saddam Hussein by Jennifer Roy & Ali Fadhil, Me, Frida and the Secret of the Peacock Ring by Angela Cervantes, and Rebound by Kwame Alexander.

Playing Atari with Saddam Hussein

Our first featured middle grade novel this week is Playing Atari with Saddam Hussein by Jennifer Roy with Ali Fadhil. This historical fiction novel is set in 1991 in Basra, Iraq – just 25797017as the United States is launching Operation Desert Storm. And it’s based on the true story of Ali Fadhil’s life as an ordinary 11 year old boy who loves playing video games and watching American TV like the The Muppet Show. But then, the bombings come and life for Fadhil and his family is becoming more and more bleak.   Here are three things to know about Playing Atari with Saddam Hussein:

  1. The main character does NOT actually play Atari with Saddam Hussein. Although as an adult, he does become a translator who ended up working at his trial. In the novel, one way that Ali copes is to imagine that he is playing Pitfall as he travels through his war-torn streets and also because some of the Americans dubbed it “the video game war” because the night-vision green streaks of bombs across the dark sky looked to them like a video game.
  2. That this book gives a much-needed window into a time-period that is often overlooked in children’s literature. We are now getting a lot of great books about 9/11 but the era of the Gulf War is still lacking. And many of my students’ parents are veterans of those wars so knowing more about the perspectives of an Iraqi child going through those experiences is important. And humanizes a group of people that some wish to label as enemies.
  3. How many similarities students will discover between themselves and Ali. Despite being set halfway around the world in a country the United States was at war with, Ali’s family plays Monopoly while they hide out waiting for the bombs to pass. Ali plays soccer and video games and collects American Superman comics. His sister has a Barbie Dreamhouse! Probably the same one I did with the elevator you pulled up with a little string. And I think back to when I was a teenager watching this war live on CNN with Wolf Blitzer and Bernie Shaw and I never would have realized the kids on the other side of those bombs were so much like me.

Playing Atari with Saddam Hussein is a great book for 5th graders through middle schoolers who are interested in the real impacts of war, Iraqi history, or just want a good historical fiction book. And it would make a great complement to the many World War II novel studies out there to add a more modern perspective.

Me, Frida and the Secret of the Peacock Ring

A second great spring middle grade release is Me, Frida, and the Secret of the Peacock Ring by Angela Cervantes. You might know her work from her two earlier novels –  Gaby, Lost and Found and Allie, First at Last. This novel is a mystery and centers around a missing ring belonging to the artist Frida Kahlo. The main character is 12 year old 32765905Paloma Marquez, who begrudgingly travels with her mom from their home in Kansas City to Mexico City for 4 weeks of the summer. (Her mom is a professor and has a fellowship there.) Although Paloma’s father was Mexican, she doesn’t speak Spanish, she worries about missing out on fun with her friends, and she just doesn’t want to go. But…. on her first night in Mexico, she attends a reception at Frida Kahlo’s home – Casa Azul – and receives the following note from a mysterious boy.  Here are three things to love about Angela Cervantes’ Me, Frida, and the Secret of the Peacock Ring:

  1. I love how Paloma is inspired in this book by her favorite mysterious series starring Lulu Pennywhistle. And as she gets further and further into the thick of things with brother and sister Gael and Lizzie –  midnight break-ins, and secret rooms, and strange fortune-tellers – Paloma is always referencing Lulu Pennywhistle to figure out how she should proceed.
  2. All the Frida Kahlo!! When I found out this book had to do with my favorite artist – I knew I had to read it. And I was so happy to discover that this book does her such justice. Frida Kahlo’s paintings illicit such a visceral reaction from students and once you tell them a little bit about her life – how she painted her pain and made it beautiful – they are enthralled by her. And yes, some notice the exaggerated eyebrows first and some find it funny. But I like how Paloma discussed that at on page 119.
  3. How this book is really all about identity and belonging. Paloma’s father was Mexican but died before she could have her own memories of him. And she feels as if she is searching for that connection while she is in Mexico City.  And as Paloma learns more about Frida, she discovers how complex her life was – sometimes feeling torn between being an international artist and wanting the roots of her native Mexican heritage.

Me, Frida, and the Secret of the Peacock Ring is a great book for kids who love art or travel, for kids who are intrigued by Mexican culture and the Spanish language – and for anyone who loves a great mystery!

Rebound

Last up this week is Kwame Alexander’s Rebound – the much-awaited prequel to the much-loved and much-awarded, novel-in-verse The Crossover. This book is all about Josh & Jordan’s father – Chuck “Da Man” Bell. But – this is an origin story. So when we first meet him, he is just Charlie – an 80’s kid reeling from a family tragedy and trying to find 41bpl0Wp5jL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_his way forward and trying to find his smile again. When home becomes tense, he is involuntarily shipped off to his grandparent’s house for the summer where he starts to find that path forward. Let me read you the first page….   Here are three things I loved about Kwame Alexander’s Rebound:

  1. The illustrations by Dawud Anyabwile. While The Crossover had black-out poems throughout the book, Rebound includes these awesome two-page spreads of these mini graphic-novel type sketches of Charlie’s basketball daydreams and wishes and memories. So so cool. And a great hook for kids who love the graphic novel format.
  2. The 80s vibe of this book!  Now, you all know I am sucker for 70s and 80s nostalgia! And this book took me back to skating parties and trying for that high score on the Pac Man machine at the rec center where ALL your friends gathered after school. But also – some things haven’t changed – like Black Panther and the Fantastic Four, the importance the right brand of shoes (and not those knockoffs your mom gets you), Strawberry Pop-Tarts, and your folks not letting you watch THAT video on MTV.
  3. Discovering all the little references and plot threads that will appear later in The Crossover. How Charlie becomes Chuck, the origins of his Basketball Rules, where his love of jazz came from – and boy it was NOT there at first! And… the little hidden surprises revealed toward the end about who some of the characters end up being in the later book. And I know there’s a ton more that I haven’t figured out yet – so for that reason alone, definitely a rich book to read with a friend or with a book club to mine and discuss all those little details.

Rebound is a must-get for your classroom or library. And fans of The Crossover are going to absolutely relish this prequel. It’s a book you finish and want to immediately talk to your friends about. It’s not necessary to have read The Crossover first, but I think it’s a better and more enjoyable reading experience to read them in the order they were published. So The Crossover, the Rebound, and then go read Crossover again!

Ann Braden & Saadia Faruqi – Interview Outline

Our special guests this week are Ann Braden and Saadia Faruqi. Ann is the author of the upcoming middle grade novel The Benefits of Being an Octopus and founder of GunSenseVT.  Saadia is an interfaith activist and author of a new early chapter book series called Meet Yasmin. Ann and Saadia recently teamed up to launch a podcast – Lifelines: Books That Bridge the Divide. I have been loving their show and am so happy to be bring you this conversation. We chat about why they started a new kidlit podcast, their novels, how they make time for reading with their kids, and some secrets for the perfect French Toast.

Take a listen…

LIFELINES PODCAST

 

Can you take a moment to tell us about yourself?Lifelines-Books-that-Bridge-the-Divide-A-Pocast-black-text

I was so excited to see your new podcast, Lifelines, pop up in my Twitter feed a few weeks ago!  How did you two connect with each other and then how did the podcast start?

What is your collaboration process like to produce the show?

I know when I first started podcasting, it took a while to get into a groove… what mistakes have you made along the way?  And what are some plans you have for the future of the podcast?

So Ann – your pictures of your baby posed with the stuffed animals is adorable!

So Saadia, I started following you on Instagram and realized that you and I share a love of French Toast. What is your secret for the perfect French Toast?

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YOUR WRITING LIFE

You both have children’s books coming out this year! Can you tell us about them and when they’ll be available?

YOUR READING LIFE

What were some of your favorite or most influential reads as a child?

I’ve realized that something we all have in common is that we have young children. I’m wondering – how do you foster that love of reading in your family? And how do you make reading a priority when family life can be so busy?

What have you read lately that you’ve loved?

Links:

Ann Braden’s website – http://annbradenbooks.com

Saadia Faruqi’s website – http://www.saadiafaruqi.com

Ann on Twitter and Facebook and Instagram

Saadia on Twitter and Facebook and Instagram

Books & Authors We Chatted About:

Witch of Blackbird Pond (Elizabeth George Speare)

Fifteen (Beverly Cleary)

Frog and Toad (Arnold Lobel)

The High King Series (Lloyd Alexander)

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (Douglas Adams)

Homecoming (Cynthia Voigt)

The Famous Five (Enid Blyton)

Nancy Drew (Carolyn Keene)

Hardy Boys (Franklin W. Dixon)

William Shakespeare

I Survived Series (Lauren Tarshis)

Crenshaw (Katherine Applegate)

Wishtree (Katherine Applegate)

Orbiting Jupiter (Gary D. Schmidt)

Okay For Now (Gary D. Schmidt)

Closing

Alright, that wraps up our show this week!

If you have a question about how to connect kids between 8-12 to books they’ll love or a suggestion about a topic we should cover, I would love to hear from you. You can email me at booksbetween@gmail.com or message me on Twitter/Instagram at the handle @Books_Between.

Books Between is a proud member of the Education Podcast Network. This network EPN_badgefeatures podcasts for educators, created by educators. For more great content visit edupodcastnetwork.com

Thank you so much for joining me this week. You can get an outline of interviews and a full transcript of all the other parts of our show at MGBookVillage.org. And, if you are liking the show, please leave us some love on iTunes or Stitcher so others can discover us as well.

Thanks and see you soon!  Bye!

CorrinaAllen

Corrina Allen is a 5th grade teacher in Central New York and mom of two energetic tween girls. She is passionate about helping kids discover who they are as readers.

Corrina is the host of Books Between – a podcast to help teachers, parents, and librarians connect children between 8 and 12 to books they’ll love.

Find her on Twitter at @corrinaaallen or Instagram at @Corrina_Allen.

 

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Supporting Students w/ ACEs & a Conversation with Varian Johnson, Books Between Episode 48

Episode Outline:

Listen to the episode here!

Intro

Hi and welcome to Books Between – a podcast for teachers, parents, librarians, and anyone who loves middle grade books.  I’m your host, Corrina Allen – a mom of two girls and a 5th grade teacher in Central New York. I believe in the power of books to help us see each other more clearly.  And my goal is to help you find fabulous books for the tweens in your life and help create a community where we all can support each other as we build those readers.

This is Episode #48 and today I’m discussing how to support readers with Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), and then I’ll share with you a conversation with Varian Johnson – author of The Parker Inheritance.

A few quick announcements before we dive in today – the Middle Grade at Heart Book Club Twitter chat about The Parker Inheritance is Tuesday, May 1st (tomorrow!) at 5pm PT / 8PM ET. Just search for the hashtag #mgbookclub and jump into the conversation. Varian will be participating so if you have a question you want to ask him, here’s your chance!  Also, the May MG at Heart Book Club pick is Every Shiny Thing by Laurie Morrison and Cordelia Jensen and in June we’ll be reading The Mad Wolf’s Daughter by Diane Magras.

And – we at MGBookVillage have some exciting news to tell you! We will be spending the month of May honoring educators! Over the next few weeks we’ll share posts and interviews with inspiring teachers, literacy specialists, principals, and all those who work to create passionate middle grade readers.MGBookVillageEducatorsMonth

We’re also excited to host four educator-focused Twitter chats every Monday evening this May at 9pm EST with topics like Fictional Teachers and Connecting with Authors – so head to MGBookVillage.org for all the details and to stay up-to-date on all things middle grade.

You can also find an outline of interviews and a full transcript of all the other parts of this show at MGBookVillage.org – including links to every topic and book we mention. So definitely check that out!

Main Topic – Supporting Students with Adverse Childhood Experiences

A couple months ago I had the opportunity at my school to attend a professional development session lead by my principal, Amy Horack, about ACEs – an acronym which I came to learn means “Adverse Childhood Experiences”. And it really opened my eyes to seeing the struggles many of my students have had in a new light – a new frame that helped me make sense of some of their behaviours and look for ways to support them. So today I am going to share with you a bit of what I discovered that day (and since then) with the hope that you will be inspired to learn more so we can support those students. First, I’ll share some definitions and discuss what Adverse Childhood Experiences are and how to calculate your own ACEs score. Then I’ll chat a bit about what that means for children and what impact a high ACEs score has on their health and behaviors. And then I’ll discuss some things we can do as educators and parents to be trauma-informed in our teaching and help support those kids as readers – and in all aspects of their life.

Definitions and Discussion

Let’s start with a definition. Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) are stressful or traumatic events that happen in childhood. These might include economic hardship, abuse, neglect, witnessing domestic violence or growing up with family members who struggle with mental illness or substance abuse. ACEs are highly correlated with a variety of health problems throughout a person’s life and substance abuse as a teen and adult. And also impact their opportunities and ability to learn.   

In my research, I found several different studies that used a variety of indicators to calculate a person’s ACEs score. There isn’t one set list, but typically there are about 10 questions with a higher score indicating more risk for negative health effects and other impacts that we can see in the children we work with – and the adults in their lives.

I am going to read off a list of situations, and I’d encourage you to first think about your own score. (Mine is three.) And think about the children you interact with. By the time they are an adult, about 67% of people will have a score of at least one. 22% will have two or more ACES, with almost 10% having scores of 3 or higher.

Adverse Childhood Experiences:

  • Have you ever lived with a parent or guardian who got divorced or separated?
  • Has a member of your household ever died?
  • Have you or a member of your household dealt with a life-threatening health situation or chronic disease?
  • Have you experienced a life-threatening accident or natural disaster?
  • Has a member of your household ever served time in jail or prison?
  • Have you ever lived with anyone who was mentally ill or suicidal, or severely depressed for more than a couple weeks?
  • Have you ever lived with anyone who had a problem with alcohol or drugs?
  • Have you ever been the victim of emotional neglect in your home? (For example, you often felt that no one in your family loved you or thought you were important, or supported each other.)
  • Have you ever been the victim of physical neglect in your home? (For example, the adults in your household didn’t provide clean clothes, meals, or take you a doctor or dentist?)
  • Have you ever been the victim of physical abuse in your home? (For example, someone in your household who might hit, kick, bite, or throw things at you?)
  • Have you ever been the victim of emotional abuse in your home? (For example, someone in your household who might swear at you, insult you, or humiliate you?)
  • Have you ever been the victim of sexual abuse or unwanted touching?
  • Have you ever witnessed physical, emotional, or sexual abuse in your home or neighborhood?
  • Have you ever experienced extreme economic hardship where the family found it difficult to cover the costs of food and housing?
  • Have you ever been treated or judged unfairly due to your race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, or gender identity?

Impacts on Adults

So what does this mean? The first ACEs study conducted in 1998 and reinforced by dozens of studies afterward has found a strong link between childhood trauma and profound negative impacts on adult health like alcoholism, chronic depression, suicide attempts, trouble holding a job – and so, so much more. (I don’t want to go too far down the road of adult impacts because I really do want to focus on children, but I encourage you to take a closer look at that research. I recommended ACESConnection.com and ACESTooHigh.com.)

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Impacts on Children

Let’s talk a bit about what the effects of ACEs looks like with kids and how to support them. As others have said, it’s about a change in mindset from “What’s wrong with this kid?” to “What happened to this kid?”  As I read this list of some of the effects on children, think about how that impacts them as readers:

  1. Antisocial behaviors and difficulty trusting others including both adults and peers (I think about how hard it can be for some readers to trust you and your recommendations, and to open up to you and the class about their thinking as they read. These are also the children I see struggling to participate well in in book clubs – who may resist sharing their feelings and being too vulnerable.)
  2. Social isolation (What comes to mind for me are those quiet, fly under the radar, submissive kids – those who curl up with a book as an escape, but not necessarily interacting with anyone else. Or those students who will submit to reading whatever you recommend but who aren’t making their own choices.)
  3. Difficulty seeking help (I absolutely see that kids who are dealing with a lot outside of school, sometimes don’t want to tell me they are having a hard time with a book. They’ll just push through thinking it’s going to make me happy. Or they just don’t have the mental energy to explain what they are struggling with as a reader.)
  4. Frequent absences, medical issues, or requests to go to the nurse / bathroom (Every one of those is just more time away from that immersive, productive reading. I’m also thinking that it’s hard to keep continuity with a book when a child is distracted by a medical issue or missing a lot of class time. I’m thinking of all the conferring they miss, to missing big chucks of the class read aloud where you are modeling strategies. And when they get back and you attempt to catch them up, now they are missing something else… I STILL have nightmares about coming back to school after a long absence and not remembering my locker combination or my schedule – it’s stressful!)
  5. Difficulty with focus and transitions (Of course, a child who is distracted by home situations and dealing with chronic stress will have difficulty selected that good book and a quiet spot to read in the time frame you are hoping for.)
  6. Trouble with organization (I’ve noticed that kids who travel back and forth between two or more households tend to lose things more often – including books. But I’ve also noticed that if a child fears consequences at home of a library fine or a note from me about a missing book, they may not want to even check out books or take them home.)  
  7. Anxiety (In thinking about students with Adverse Childhood Experiences and anxiety, I notice that some really shy away from books with heavier themes that might bring up difficult emotions. They’re the kids who want the assurance that the dog on the cover is going to make it at the end. Or may feel reticent about reading a book that will hit too close home. One the one hand, I think it’s really important to have books available where students can see that characters have dealt with similar issues to their own so they don’t feel alone. And it’s important for other students to read those books to develop some empathy and understanding. But – it’s also okay if a child doesn’t want to read something that might trigger them but instead looks to reading as an escape. So I’m thinking that having fun, light books than can provide that safe haven for students is also key and to honor those choices.)
  8. Difficulty with academic achievement (Absolutely! And since becoming a strong and competent reader is the linchpin to gathering all other knowledge – it reinforces to me that importance of focusing on reading.)
  9. Difficulty planning for the future (When a child can’t rely on stability at home, it’s no wonder that kids can’t tell me what book they’re going to read next or how they are going to schedule in their reading homework at night – sometimes they don’t know what they are coming home to! Or – more likely – they know exactly what they are going home to and it’s not a situation conducive to reading.)
  10. Trouble regulating their emotions and their affect – facial expressions – either exaggerating them or having no affect (This brings to mind a former student who would seemingly overreact to their reading – bursting out in this wild laughter or tossing the book aside in anger. And at the time, I did think “What is the matter with this kid?” But now…I can only wonder – “What was really going on with that child?”

How to Support Students with ACEs

In thinking about how to support the children in our lives who have those ACEs, I think for me, starting with that mindset change was a key first step. I think it’s natural to respond to some of those situations by wanting to get worked up yourself, but I’m trying to pause and realize that it’s not personal. And find some better strategies. So, I do not, by any means, want to portray myself here as any kind of expert. And I encourage you to look at the research yourself and see what might work for you. But after doing some reading, here are some things I’m going to try:

First, I want to recognize and support the resilience they already have. When I think about what some of my students have been through, I am so proud of what they are accomplishing despite the stress they may be under. So, highlighting their strengths whenever possible and help them build themselves up is something I want to focus more on.

Second, since kids who have experienced trauma can often suffer from worry and have trouble regulating their emotions and actions, I want to make sure my classroom environment is as stable and calm as possible. So being more aware of my language and tone of voice and nonverbal cues – even when I’m frustrated is something I want to be more aware of. And providing a stable routine with more opportunities for movement and snack breaks. I’m really intrigued by some teachers who’ve set up what they call a Calming Station in their room with things like a comfortable chair, soft music, lavender scented play-doh, some gum, resources on meditation, and an opportunity to write about what they’re feeling. So I think I’m going to start to get together a kit to keep in my classroom.  

Also, learning more about the impacts of ACEs has reinforced even more, the importance of building relationships with my students. And having more casual one-on-one conversations where I’m not asking them to comply with a direction, but I’m just asking about their interests. Which has the double benefit of helping me know them better as readers and people.  The more I think back, the more I am appalled at the advice I got as a young teacher to never smile before Christmas! Who wants to spend 8 hours a day with someone who never smiles?  These kids – and all kids – need warm, nurturing, safe, and stable relationships. And a teacher who smiles and welcomes them by name every day. I used to give a general welcome as students arrived but this year, I made the decision to make sure I welcome every kid by name within the first ten minutes of them arriving at school. And it has made a difference. And try to ask them a little something (What did you of the ending of Amulet? How was your game last night?) or notice something (The unicorn on your shirt reminds me of this new series you might like – The Unicorn Rescue Society!)

And finally it reminds me to be more observant and not let things go. If something doesn’t feel right in your interactions with a child, I don’t want to let them fall through the cracks. If you notice something that warrants it, please call Child Protective Services. I’ll drop a link to some indicators and a place you can go for more information.  But, if you’ve ever had to call CPS, you know it is complicated.  I’m reminded of The Last Jedi where Luke says to Rey, “This is not going to go the way you think.” There is no quick rescue from those dark situations, but being a positive presence, helping all students develop resilience and coping strategies – or even just offering a few hours of escape – can do more than you realize.

And I’ve said that learning more about how Adverse Childhood Experiences opened my eyes – but it also opened my heart to be more loving not only toward my students but also toward my colleagues – and even toward myself a bit, too.

If you want to know more (and I hope you do!) – I’ve including links to several sites that will give more details and more strategies you can use to help the children (and adults!) in your life.

For more information about ACEs:

https://www.samhsa.gov/capt/practicing-effective-prevention/prevention-behavioral-health/adverse-childhood-experiences

https://vetoviolence.cdc.gov/apps/phl/resource_center_infographic.html

https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/acestudy/resources.html

https://www.childtrends.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/Brief-adverse-childhood-experiences_FINAL.pdf

https://www.weareteachers.com/10-things-about-childhood-trauma-every-teacher-needs-to-know/

https://wmich.edu/sites/default/files/attachments/u57/2013/child-trauma-toolkit.pdf

https://www.thechaosandtheclutter.com/archives/create-your-own-anti-anxiety-kit-for-children

 

Varian Johnson- Interview Outline

Our special guest this week is Varian Johnson, author of The Parker Inheritance! We discuss his love of puzzles, his research process, favorite childhood books, and so much more!  And joining me this month to chat with Varian Johnson is one of the founders of the MG at Heart Book Club, Julie Artz.  

And I got so much great feedback from you all about the last episode’s Bonus Spoiler Section at the very end of the show that we doing it again! So, if you want to hear Varian talk about the end of his novel, I put that part of our conversation after the credits so this part will be spoiler-free.

Take a listen…

THE PARKER INHERITANCE

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CA: For our listeners who haven’t yet read the novel, can you tell us a bit about The Parker Inheritance?

JA:  One of the things I love about The Parker Inheritance is how vivid the historical storyline is and how well it’s integrated into Candice & Brandon’s present-day story. Can you tell us a little bit about the research that went into writing this story?

CA: Your novel had such depth and nuance and included these small but powerful scenes – like Brandon feeling uncomfortable checking out “girl books”, and his older sister explaining why she slows down to avoid any chance of getting pulled over, the assistant principal discovering Brandon and Candice doing research and asking for their ID, and then…that scene between Siobhan and Chip and Reggie with the Coca Cola.  I just loved how there were these small dips into complicated themes. I guess this isn’t a question per se but more of a thank you for helping me see and think through some of those preconceptions and biases and for writing a novel that will also do that for my students….

JA: Who is your favorite character from The Parker Inheritance?

CA: One of the things I loved about Candice was her love of puzzles – and how she figured out Milo’s schedule so that Brandon could avoid him! Are you into puzzles and codes like Candice?

**BONUS SPOILER SECTION: Varian and Julie and I discussed the ending of the novel, and if you’d like to hear that conversation, I moved that part of the recording to after the end credits of today’s episode at the 50:58 mark.

YOUR WRITING LIFE

JA: The way you melded the two timelines really built a lot of page-turning tension into the story. How did you plan that out as you were writing?varian-johnson

CA: As a writer, what were your early inspirations and what do you think teachers and parents can do to get young people writing more and writing more confidently?

JA: What are you writing next?

YOUR READING LIFE

CA: Did you have a teacher or librarian in your life who helped you grow into a reader?

JA: I loved all the hat-tips to treasured books like The Westing Game that were sprinkled all through The Parker Inheritance. Any other childhood favorites you still love today?

CA: What are some books that you’ve been reading lately?

Links:

Varian Johnson’s website – http://varianjohnson.com

Varian on Twitter and Facebook

Althea Gibson

Mad Men

Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar & Inception

Books & Authors We Chatted About:

The Westing Game (Ellen Raskin)

Holes (Louis Sachar)

Beverly Cleary

Peter & Fudge Books (Judy Blume)

Blubber (Judy Blume)

Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret (Judy Blume)

Walter Dean Myers

Virginia Hamilton

Bridge to Terabithia (Katherine Paterson)

One Crazy Summer (Rita Williams Garcia)

Once You Reach Me (Rebecca Stead)

Goodbye Stranger (Rebecca Stead)

Shelby Holmes Series (Elizabeth Eulberg)

The Lonely Hearts Club (Elizabeth Eulberg)

The Mortification of Fovea Munson (Mary Winn Heider)

Closing

Alright, that wraps up our show this week!

If you have a question about how to connect kids between 8-12 to books they’ll love or a suggestion about a topic we should cover, I would love to hear from you. You can email me at booksbetween@gmail.com or message me on Twitter/Instagram at the handle @Books_Between.

Books Between is a proud member of the Education Podcast Network. This network EPN_badgefeatures podcasts for educators, created by educators. For more great content visit edupodcastnetwork.com

Thank you so much for joining me this week. You can get an outline of interviews and a full transcript of all the other parts of our show at MGBookVillage.org. And, if you are liking the show, please leave us some love on iTunes or Stitcher so others can discover us as well.

Thanks and see you soon!  Bye!

CorrinaAllen

Corrina Allen is a 5th grade teacher in Central New York and mom of two energetic tween girls. She is passionate about helping kids discover who they are as readers.

Corrina is the host of Books Between – a podcast to help teachers, parents, and librarians connect children between 8 and 12 to books they’ll love.

Find her on Twitter at @corrinaaallen or Instagram at @Corrina_Allen.

 

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A Conversation with Jen Petro-Roy: Books Between, Episode 47

Episode Outline:

Listen to the episode here!

Intro

Hi and welcome to Books Between – a podcast for teachers, parents, librarians, and anyone who loves middle grade books. I believe in the power of stories to help us realize that we are not alone in the world.  And my goal is to help you connect kids with those incredible stories and share inspiring conversations with the authors and educators who make that magic happen.

I am Corrina Allen – a mom of two, a teacher of 22, and gearing up for my Spring Break next week!

This is Episode #47 and today I’m sharing three books about the challenges and realities of family life, and then I’ll share with you a conversation with Jen Petro-Roy – author of P.S. I Miss You.

A few quick announcements before we get started – the April Middle Grade at Heart Book Club pick is The Parker Inheritance by Varian Johnson and the May pick is Every Shiny Thing by Laurie Morrison and Cordelia Jensen if you want to adjust those TBR piles so you can join us.

Also, if you are on Twitter, Matthew Winner and I will be guests on the upcoming #mglitchat Twitter Chat this Thursday, April 19th from 9-10pm. And we’ll be chatting about podcasting and whatever else you want to chat about! So I hope you can join us live this Thursday or check out #mglitchat afterward to see the transcript.

Book Talk – Three Novels Featuring the Challenges and Realities of Family Life

This week I am kicking off the show with some book talks! And the theme this week is novels featuring the challenges and realities of family life.Our three featured books this episode are Kat Greene Comes Clean by Melissa Roske, The Thing About Leftovers by C.C. Payne, and One for the Murphys by Lynda Mullaly Hunt.

Kat Greene Comes Clean

 

kat-greeneOur first featured MG novel this week is Kat Greene Comes Clean by Melissa Roske. This is a book about a 5th grade girl, Kat, who lives in New York City with her cleaning-obsessed mother who is now a contestant on the TV game show Clean Sweep. But that’s not the only stressor in her life right now. She is still dealing with the ramifications of her parent’s divorce and her dad’s new family. Her best friend, Halle, is less-than-supportive now that she’s newly enamored with a particular boy at their school.  And, Kat did not get one of the lead roles in her school’s production of her favorite book – Harriet the Spy. She gets the blah role of the boy in the purple socks. Here are three things to love about Kat Greene Comes Clean:

  1. The complicated crush situation in this book. I won’t reveal the details because it’s a bit of a spoiler, but Kat’s best friend has an intense crush on this boy, Michael McGraw, and talks about every facet of his life constantly. And that situation takes an unexpected and awkward detour. Well, unexpected for Halle and Kat. As a teacher, I’ve seen this play out like this a bunch of times…..  yikes!
  2. How this book portrays what it’s like dealing with a family member who has OCD. Kat’s mom was laid off from her job at a magazine, went through a divorce, and her OCD has manifested itself more and more through her obsessive cleaning. I appreciated that this book acknowledged that these anxieties and disorders are often more than just one thing. And the multiple layers of impact on everyone around them. Kat’s mom scrubs the floor with an electric toothbrush, so Kat has to constantly worry about her wrath if there are crumbs anywhere. Her mom washes her hands in a very precise way over and over again, so Kat has to wait while she finishes and her mom’s attention is always diverted to the next thing she has that compulsion to clean. Even in public, her mother wipes down the cans at the grocery store before putting them in her cart, which embarasses Kat terribly! But then she starts throwing away Kat’s things from her bedroom and the impact on Kat is beyond just that embarrassment. At one point later in the novel when things have come to a head, her mother says, “I felt out of control and incredibly anxious. So I shut down.”
  3. Kat’s school psychologist – Olympia Rabinowitz. I just loved her gentle way of slowly helping Kat release herself that her mother had a problem. Early on, Olympia comes to her classroom for something like a sharing circle and later Kat writes her an email about her mom. And then deletes it. I thought that was such a truthful moment – because especially for children, sometimes even acknowledging a problem is overwhelming because the consequence of telling is often also bad. There’s a real chance that Kat could have to leave her mom and go live with her dad and his new wife and son – which she does NOT want to do! And like a lot of kids, she has an aversion to airing her family’s “dirty laundry.” Plus – I loved Olympia because has jelly beans in her office and that’s always a plus.

If you have a kid who likes Harriet the Spy or Kharma Khullar’s Mustache or Finding Perfect, then Melissa Roske’s Kat Green Comes Clean is a great book to introduce them to next.

The Thing About Leftovers

9780147514226A book that I finally got a chance to read last week is The Thing About Leftovers by C.C. Payne. This novel is about 6th grader Elizabeth “Fizzy” Russo who is struggling to navigate changing family dynamics in the aftermath of her parents’ divorce. And figuring out how to make friends at her swanky new school. The only two things that consistently provide stability and help her cope are cooking and her Aunt Liz, who helps Fizzy register for the prestigious Southern Living Cook-off and works with her to test out tons of recipes after school.  I loved every bit of this book from the first to the very last page. But, just as a small sample, here are three things to love about C.C. Payne’s The Thing About Leftovers:

  1. Have I mentioned that I am a sucker for books featuring food?  Oh my gosh – this book had me DROOLING over all the recipes that Fizzy tries out. Like lasagna and apple tart and this intriguing German dessert called Eis and Heiss (meaning ice and hot) which is a mix of cold ice cream and hot fruit sauce.  And then later, when she finds out that her mom’s boyfriend, Keene, likes her baking, she makes cake after cake – pineapple upside down and red velvet and this gorgeous purple cake with purple flowers all over it…ahhh. Oh – and this wonderful thing called Benedictine that Fizzy’s Aunt Liz makes for her when she comes over. It’s this wonderful-sounding cucumber and cream cheese spread. I NEED to try this!
  2. All the analogies and descriptions related to food. As Jarrett Lerner mentioned on a recent episode, a fabulous analogy can make your writing just sparkle. And boy does Payne fill her writing with sparkling moments. Like, “In a voice so sugary I could practically feel a cavity coming on.”  or “And if Mom was starting fresh, then that made me a kind of leftover, didn’t it?”, “Here’s the thing about leftovers: Nobody is ever excited about them; they’re just something you have to deal with.”  and here’s one of my favorites from page 190.
  3. Her friendships with Zach and Miyoko. Zack is a boy who Fizzy’s mom describes as “slick” but who you realize is coping with his own “stuff” by telling adults what they want to hear – and then doing what he wants to do. And then Miyoko – who does exactly what the perhaps over-protective adults in her life want her to – from getting straight A’s to going to bed at 10 – even when she’s having a sleepover!  But who stands up for things when it really matters. I really enjoyed Fizzy and Miyoko and Zach‘s supportive friendship with each other.

C.C. Payne’s The Things About Leftovers is so well-written – a bittersweet mix of heartbreaking and heartfelt and humourous, and with an ending that is both honest and hopeful. As a kid who went through some very similar family dynamics, I think this book is a must-have for your collection. And I’m really looking forward to seeing more from C.C. Payne!

One for the Murphys

 

one-for-the-murphys-335x512Our third book featured this week is One for the Murphys by Lynda Mullaly Hunt.  This is one of those books that got past me and when some friends found out I hadn’t read it yet they basically staged an intervention and forced me to! And oh am I glad they did!! They were so right – this book is incredible! So for the few of you who haven’t read it yet (it seems like I was the last one!), One for the Murphys is about 12 year-old Carley who grew up in Las Vegas with her fun-loving but neglectful mother. She’s a tough kid. But when a violent incident with her step-father leads to Carley’s placement in foster care with the Murphys, it gets harder for Carley to convince herself that she is not worthy of their love.  Here are three things to love about One for the Murphys:

  1. The slow, skillful reveal about Carley’s previous life and what happened to land her in foster care. Hunt does not come right out and tell you, but drops a trail of memories. Like learning that Carley used to “go shopping” for her family by diving into Goodwill dumpsters while her mom played lookout. Or when she asks Mrs. Murphy if the lasagna she has planned for dinner is Stouffers or the store brand. Or when she’s shocked that Mrs. Murphy can calm herself down, because her own mother could never do that. Or the times Carley reveals she had to sleep in the bathtub… It just reminds us that a lot of kids – the angry ones, the quiet ones – have those types of stories that if we knew them, would explain so much.
  2. Mrs. Murphy! This woman, who has her own stories, is incredible at understanding Carley and being patient with her as the family adjusts. There’s this powerful scene at a restaurant after Mrs. Murphy has just taken Carley clothes shopping and Carley, probably feeling overwhelmed, starts lashing out at the server, at the food, at her, at herself. Let me read you this one section from page 25.  
  3. All the little things. I can’t pin it down to just one, but… the giraffe stuffed animal, and Tori’s love of the musical Wicked, and her razzing Mr. Murphy about the Red Sox, and all the Murphy boys – Daniel, and Adam, and especially little Michael Eric. And the sign in Carley’s bedroom… The last three chapters of this book – whoa. Prepare to finish this novel in a location where you can cry. And yes, it’s a tear-jerker at the end, but the tears are about the hope as much as they are about the other things that happen. So please don’t let the fact that you might cry dissuade you from reading this book! It’s… earned them. I almost feel like, Carley (and the kids like Carley) deserved that emotion at the end.

One for the Murphys is for all the Carley’s in the world, and for all the kids and adults who need a way to see past the hardened front of children like Carley.

If you want to instantly boost the quality of connections your kids can find in your classroom library or your collection, get these three books! They each offer much-needed perspectives for families experiencing divorce, mental illness, the foster care system, and a lot more and told with warmth and lightness and humor!

Jen Petro-Roy – Interview Outline

Our special guest this week is Jen Petro-Roy, author of P.S. I Miss You. We discuss the role of sensitivity readers, the challenges of writing a novel told all in letters, her favorite board game, and of course – her debut novel!

Take a listen…

P.S. I MISS YOU

PSIMissYouFor our listeners who haven’t yet read P.S. I Miss You, what is this story about?

One of the things I really appreciated about this story was that it deals with issues that many, many kids are experiencing – like an older sibling’s pregnancy, religious questioning, and Evie slowly starting to realize she may have romantic feelings for her friend, June. I love that kids have your age-appropriate story so they can either see themselves reflected in the characters (and feel like they are not alone) or start to develop some awareness of what their peers are going through.

What was your thought process like as you were including those elements of your story?

I saw you mention that you used a sensitivity reader. I am so curious about that process – can you tell us what that was like, how you connected with them, and how their advice may have enhanced your story?

On a personal note – I just want to thank you soo much for including a positive portrayal of an unapologetically atheist family.  I was formerly very Catholic but we are now a non-religious family and it was so refreshing to FINALLY see a character like June who is happy, well-adjusted, and also non-religious. … So, thank you!!

Even though there are some weightier themes, your novel includes such laughter and light – and the references to Fish in a Tree, and Harry Potter, and Beauty & the Beast and the movie Grease…

How did you balance those aspects of Evie’s life?

So…. I want to talk about the ending. But… I don’t want to reveal the ending!

NOTE: Jen and I discussed the ending of the novel, and if you’d like to hear that conversation, I moved that part of the recording to after the end credits of today’s episode at the 45:35 mark.

YOUR WRITING LIFE

As a novel told all in letters – what kind of challenges did that format create for you?JenPetro-Roy.authorphoto

What are you working on now?

YOUR READING LIFE

One of the goals of this podcast is to help educators and librarians inspire kids to read more and connect them with amazing books.

Did you have a special teacher or librarian in your life who helped you grow into a reader?

You’ve said that reading The Babysitters Club as a child made you into the reader and writer you are today….

Are you more Kristy, MaryAnne, Claudia, or  Stacey?

What are you reading now?

Links:

Screen Shot 2018-04-15 at 2.45.40 PM

Jen Petro Roy’s  gorgeous website – https://www.jenpetroroy.com

Jen on Twitter and Instagram

Danika Corrall’s website – https://www.danikacorrall.com/work

Photosynthesis Board Game

 

Books & Authors We Chatted About:

 

The Baby-Sitters Club (Ann M. Martin)

The Secret Sheriff of Sixth Grade (Jordan Sonnenblick)

Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie (Jordan Sonnenblick)

Not If I Save You First (Ally Carter)

Gallagher Girls (Ally Carter)

Closing

Alright, that wraps up our show this week!

If you have a question about how to connect kids between 8-12 to books they’ll love or a suggestion about a topic we should cover, I would love to hear from you. You can email me at booksbetween@gmail.com or message me on Twitter/Instagram at the handle @Books_Between.

Books Between is a proud member of the Education Podcast Network. This network EPN_badgefeatures podcasts for educators, created by educators. For more great content visit edupodcastnetwork.com

Thank you so much for joining me this week. You can get an outline of interviews and a full transcript of all the other parts of our show at MGBookVillage.org. And, if you are liking the show, please leave us some love on iTunes or Stitcher so others can discover us as well.

Thanks and see you soon!  Bye!

CorrinaAllen

Corrina Allen is a 5th grade teacher in Central New York and mom of two energetic tween girls. She is passionate about helping kids discover who they are as readers.

Corrina is the host of Books Between – a podcast to help teachers, parents, and librarians connect children between 8 and 12 to books they’ll love.

Find her on Twitter at @corrinaaallen or Instagram at @Corrina_Allen.

 

A Conversation with Karina Yan Glaser: Books Between, Episode 46

Episode Outline:

Listen to the episode here!

Intro

Hi everyone and welcome to the Books Between Podcast! I believe in the power of stories to brighten our world and spark change within ourselves.  My goal is to help you connect kids with those amazing stories and share inspiring conversations with the authors and educators who make that magic happen.

I am Corrina Allen – a mom of two tween girls, a 5th grade teacher, and surrounded by slime. Oh. My. God. There is no escaping this stuff – it’s like a preteen version of The Blob with sparkles and glitter and sequins and now – foams beads!

This is Episode #46 and today I’m sharing three books featuring the magical power of dogs, and then I’ll share with you a conversation with Karina Yan Glaser – author of The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street!

Two quick announcements before we get started – the MG at Heart Twitter chat about  The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street is tomorrow night – Tuesday, April 3rd at 8pm EST using the hashtag #MGBookClub. And if you want to get ahead with your reading, the April Middle Grade at Heart Book Club pick is The Parker Inheritance by Varian Johnson and the May pick is Every Shiny Thing by Laurie Morrison and Cordelia Jensen. I was excited to have Laurie join me today to interview Karina and can’t wait to have her back to discuss her own debut.

Book Talk – Three Novels Featuring the Special Magic of Dogs

In this section of the show, I share with you a few books centered around a theme and discuss three things to love about each book.  This week I’ll be talking about three awesome middle grade novels about separation, unlikely friendships, and the special magic of dogs. Now I will admit up front that am not a huge dog person. I mean – a well-trained dog is an amazing pet, and I love visiting with my friend’s dogs but I am more than okay with not having one of my own. But these three books hit me hard – and if YOU love dogs, they will wend their way into your heart even more. The books this week are Good Dog by Dan Gemeinhart, Hello, Universe by Erin Entrada Kelly, and Granted by John David Anderson.

Good Dog

81qemgIfCELFirst up –  Good Dog! Just….wow – Dan Gemeinhart hits another one out of the park! He is already a favorite author of so many of my students, and I’m glad to have another title to recommend after they have finished Scar Island or Some Kind of Courage or especially – The Honest Truth. This novel has a slightly different feel than his previous books. It is told from the point of view of Brodie – a dog who we meet just after he’s entered the great beyond after his death. And as our Brodie figures out the rules of this new place, and makes some friends, he remembers more of his past life on Earth. And remembers the danger that his boy, Aidan, is still in. And Brodie has to decide whether to move on to that ultimate Forever or if saving his boy from that threat is worth the awful price he’ll have to pay to even attempt helping him. Here are three things to love about Good Dog:

  1. The afterlife concept in this book. So – I don’t believe in life after death, but if it existed – I would hope it’s like this one. Going to an in-between place, a passing-through place where peace will rise up to you through your remembering as the goodness in you shakes off the last bits of darkness and sadness until you can move on to that final Forever.
  2. Tuck. I loved this dog – this sweet can’t-stand-still, can’t-be-quiet, always-running heart of gold black pit bull who was a good dog – even when it was hard. This dog who maybe – sort of – sold a bit of his soul for a French Fry. (Hey, I can relate!)
  3. It’s hard to explain how much I came to love this book without giving away a major spoiler. And I had prided myself on the fact that even though others had warned me to have tissues handy, I was fine… no tears, just FINE. Until page 285 when I learned that tiny but significant detail about the narrator that had me a sobbing wreck and needing to reread the entire thing!

Hello, Universe

30653713The second book I want to tell you about this week is the 2018 Newbery Award winner – Hello, Universe by Erin Entrada Kelly. This one has a special place in my heart because it’s a novel that my daughters and I experienced together. We listened to the audio book throughout December and January and grew so attached to – well, I was going to say, to all the characters in the book, but I’ll say all but one. Hello, Universe is a quietly powerful story told from the point of view of four children. Virgil Salinas, a shy and quiet boy who longs to be recognized as more than just the “turtle” of his family. And who wants to be friends with Valencia – the girl in his special needs class at school. His close friend is Kaori Tanaka who has this physic business for kids and who places a lot of stock in signs and horoscopes and telling fortunes and the concept of Fate. And the final of the main trio is Valencia Somerset, who loves nature and adventure and who is also deaf. She and Virgil attend the same school but haven’t really met. However, they’ve both met Chet Bullens – the school bully. The entire story takes place over the course of one day when at various times, all four children end up in the woods near their school. And one of them falls in an abandoned well. Here are three things to love about Hello, Universe.

  1. The blend of the mystical and the modern intertwined with Filipino folktales that really show the power of those stories across generations. And how those archetypes of heroes can inspire us to our bravery. Or as Virgil’s grandmother says, to discovering your inner “bayani” – your inner “hero”.
  2. Valencia! She was my favorite character – wise and clever and stubborn – and so attuned to others’ reactions to her deafness. Someone pointed out that hers is the only point of view told in the first person so maybe that’s why I identified so much with her. It’s a tiny moment but when she describes sneaking tupperware bowls of food into the woods to feed this poor stray dog, and how she never remembers to return them….. I felt like the author captured something so real there. I remember taking my mother’s measuring cups and spoons out to play in the dirt until suddenly we had none left. And there was this one summer where I fed this stray cat in our neighborhood for weeks…one can of tuna fish every day. I felt like there was something very true to preteens about that mix of compassion and cluelessness.
  3. The role of the dog in this book. Like I mentioned, Valencia has befriended this stray dog who lives in the woods. And he doesn’t play a huge part in the story – at first – but his role is crucial in surprising ways later on. He didn’t turn up when I thought he might. But I felt as though he could have known Brodie and Tuck from Good Dog.

Granted

x500And the final book I want to talk about this week is Granted by John David Anderson. You probably know him from the incredible Ms. Bixby’s Last Day and Posted. Both of those novels were realistic fiction, male protagonists, with stories centered around school. Granted is totally different – it’s about a fairy named Ophelia Delphinium Fidgets. One of the dwindlingly few fairies in the Haven entrusted with the job of Granter – a fairy who ventures out of their safe community and into the dangerous human world to grant a wish. So – everyday, people wish on stars, or candles or wishbones – and each of those wishes (if they follow the rules) are entered into a lottery of sorts. But in the fairies’ world – their magic has been decreasing and the number of wishes they can grant has plummeted to the point where on Ophelia’s first day on the job only a handful are scheduled to be granted. So she has two problems on her mind – is the wish-granting system they’ve always followed breaking down and if so, what can they do to fix it? And… how to complete her mission to grant one lucky 13 year-old girl’s wish for a purple bike. All Ophelia has to do is fly to Ohio and find the nickel the girl used for her wish. But what should be a routine mission turn into this epic quest that has Ophelia questioning so much of, well – what she took for granted. Here are three things to love about Granted:

  1. The fairies’ names! They receive their middle name first – which comes from the plant where they were born. (Like Rose or Oak or Daffodil). Their last name is given by their Founder – the fairy who discovers the newborn sprite and oversees their early care and adds a name that expresses something about their personality. (Like Fidgets or Crier). And their first name is completely random. So you get names like our protagonist Ophelia Delphinium Fidgets, her best friend Charlie Rhododendron Whistler, May Rose Crier,  or…Gus Fothergilla Gaspasser!
  2. Sam!  The mangy, smelly golden-haired mutt who after first wanting to eat then chew then chase Ophelia, offers to help her track down the wish she must grant. And.. maybe get to eat some donuts along the way. Ophelia is definitely NOT into this arrangement. Their conversations are HILARIOUS!  
  3. Ophelia’s song. So – every fairy has a magical song that they can sing for a particular effect- perhaps enchanting the listener or having a more negative effect. And while most fairies opt for a traditional tune like “Greensleeves” or “Rolling in the Dew” or maybe even a Sinatra song, Ophelia’s song is….  oh I so want to tell you what it is! But you just have to read it! Let’s just say, it’s something more….modern!

Granted and Good Dog, and Hello, Universe are three books that will cast a magical spell on your heart.  

 

Karina Yan Glaser – Interview Outline

Joining me this month for our Middle Grade at Heart interview with Karina Yan Glaser is author Laurie Morrison. We got an opportunity to sit down together last month to chat about brownstones, balancing your reading life, and of course – The Vanderbeekers!

Take a listen…

The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street

The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street by Karina GlaserCA: Can you tell us what this story is about?

LM: I love that the book is so balanced between the Vanderbeekers and has five equally developed main characters. Was one of the kids especially challenging or especially fun for you to write? Do you have any advice for other writers who are working on stories with ensemble casts?

CA: One of the things that made me fall so hard for this book was that vibrant Harlem, New York setting with Castleman’s Bakery and the brownstones and City College in the background…  Was the Vanderbeeker’s neighborhood modeled after your own?

LM: I’ve seen many readers comment that the book feels classic or timeless or old-fashioned. What do you think it is about the book that makes it feel classic to readers?

LM: I noticed that you created the wonderful illustrations inside the book. How did you decide to include those, and were they always a part of the manuscript?

CA: I noticed that you have an adorable bunny! Can she do tricks like Paganini?

Your Writing Life

LM: I’m so excited that there are two more Vanderbeekers stories on the way! Did you always know there would be more than one book, and what has it been like to write more Vanderbeeker adventures?The Vanderbeekers and the Hidden Garden, Final Cover

LM: I know you’re a contributing editor at Book Riot and write a weekly newsletter. That must mean you do a lot of reading and a lot of writing outside of your fiction! How do you balance those different kinds of book-related work?

Your Reading Life

Sometimes it only takes that one adult in a kid’s life to influence them as a reader – either in a positive way to spur them on and spark that passion in them, or sometimes to squelch it.

CA: Was there an adult in your life who impacted you as a reader?

LM: I think The Vanderebeekers of 141st Street would be a fabulous book to read aloud to kids. Do you have any favorite books to read aloud to your own kids or kids you’ve worked with in the past?

CA: What have you been reading lately that you’ve liked?

Karina Glaser-31

 

 

Links:

Karina’s website – http://www.karinaglaser.com

Karina on Twitter and Instagram

BookRiot’s Children’s Section

 

Books & Authors We Chatted About:

 

Charles Darwin’s Around the World Adventure (Jennifer Thermes)

Grandma Gatewood Hikes the Appalachian Trail (Jennifer Thermes)

The Penderwicks at Last (Jeanne Birdsall)

Tuck Everlasting (Natalie Babbitt)

See You in the Cosmos (Jack Cheng)

Ginger Pye (Eleanor Estes)

The Moffats (Eleanor Estes)

The Hundred Dresses (Eleanor Estes)

The Land (Mildred T. Taylor)

Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry (Mildred T. Taylor)

Every Shiny Thing (Laurie Morrison & Cordelia Jensen)

They Say Blue (Jillian Tamaki)

Front Desk (Kelly Yang)

The Right Hook of Devin Velma (Jake Burt)

Greetings From Witness Protection (Jake Burt)

Closing

Alright, that wraps up our show this week!

If you have a question about how to connect kids between 8-12 to books they’ll love or a suggestion about a topic we should cover, I would love to hear from you. You can email me at booksbetween@gmail.com or message me on Twitter/Instagram at the handle @Books_Between.

Screen Shot 2018-04-01 at 9.05.40 AMAnd – if you are wanting more discussion focused on middle grade, check out the new podcast called Lifelines: Books That Bridge the Divide hosted by authors Ann Braden and Saadia Faruqi. I’ll drop a link to their first two episodes in our show notes, and I am really excited to see more middle grade podcasts out there.

Books Between is a proud member of the Education Podcast Network. This network EPN_badgefeatures podcasts for educators, created by educators. For more great content visit edupodcastnetwork.com

Thank you so much for joining me this week. You can get an outline of interviews and a full transcript of all the other parts of our show at MGBookVillage.org. And, if you are liking the show, please leave us some love on iTunes or Stitcher so others can discover us as well.

Thanks and see you soon!  Bye!

CorrinaAllen

Corrina Allen is a 5th grade teacher in Central New York and mom of two energetic tween girls. She is passionate about helping kids discover who they are as readers.

Corrina is the host of Books Between – a podcast to help teachers, parents, and librarians connect children between 8 and 12 to books they’ll love.

Find her on Twitter at @corrinaaallen or Instagram at @Corrina_Allen.

 

How to Rock Your Read Aloud & a Conversation w/ Colby Sharp: Books Between, Episode 45

Episode Outline:

Listen to the episode here!

Intro

Hi everyone and welcome to the Books Between Podcast! I believe in the power of stories to connect us to others in our world.  My goal is to help you connect kids with incredible books and share inspiring conversations with the authors and educators who make that magic happen.  Every other Monday, I bring you book talks, interviews, and ideas for getting great books into the hands of kids between 8-12.

I am Corrina Allen – a mom of an 8 and 10 year old, a 5th grade teacher, and now making multiple visits to the orthodontist for both of my daughters. Farewell popcorn and hello palate expanders!

This is Episode #45 and Today I’m discussing some ideas to make your read alouds even better and then sharing with you a conversation with educator Colby Sharp about The Creativity Project!

Two quick announcements. First, the March MG at Heart Book Club pick is The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street and the April book is The Parker Inheritance by Varian Johnson. So adjust your TBR pile if you want to join us for those conversations later this spring.  And remember that #MGBookMarch is going strong this month, and I have been so inspired by all of your responses. If you haven’t yet, I hope you’ll jump into the conversation!

How to Rock Your Read Aloud

41oQ29LcQTL._SX400_BO1,204,203,200_Last week, I had to be out of my classroom for three days for special ed meetings and various professional development training. And so I left some short picture books for the sub to read while I was away and the students foisted some of their favorites on them as well. And let me tell you – my students had OPINIONS about those experiences when I got back!  And it got me thinking – it is SO hard to grab a book you’ve never read and be open and vulnerable enough in front of an audience to read it aloud well. It takes some bravery to take those chances to give yourself over to the book. In case you were
wondering, it was
The Book With No Pictures – the incredible book that “tricks” the reader into saying silly things.

So today I am going to share with you some ways that you can rock your read aloud with your students, your own kids, or any group of children. I’ll chat about what to do before,
during, and at the end of your read aloud.  And I’ll read aloud some non-spoilery samples from one of my all-time favorite books – and the one whose
sequel is released tomorrow – The Wild Robot.

Before the read aloud

There are some things you can do to prepare ahead of time to make that read aloud really come to life.

  1.  Pick the right book!

Some books just aren’t that great to read aloud. My daughters asked me to read aloud El Deafo a few years ago and it worked…okay… since they could sit on either side of me and see the illustrations, but I think a whole class read aloud of a whole graphic novel would be tough.  Books with short chapters are really great. Books that have tons of internal thinking or long sections of description can be tough though. Also, some of the classics have tricky sentence structure or difficult vocabulary. Or contain messages or stereotypes that we don’t want to perpetuate anymore. So – look to resources and people you trust for some good recommendations.

  1. Listen to great examples

If you want to improve, listen to other people read aloud to pick up their tricks. And listen to audio books. There are often samples you can listen to on Audible that will give you some ideas of voices to do. Or how to modulate your voice and tone and speed to match the story and the characters. We’ll chat more about that in a bit, but I have learned SO much from Jim Dale’s performance of Harry Potter. And Neil Gaiman’s readings of his novels, or most recently, the masterful performance of The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street by Robin Miles. Listening to those examples, helped me realize that a good read aloud IS a performance.

  1. Preview the book ahead of time.

It really helps if you’ve at least read the chapter before so you don’t get lost in the sentences. And read it out loud – even if you’re just mouthing it to yourself. Three things to pay attention to: new characters you’ll have to voice, punctuation, and dialogue tags (the part of the sentence that says “she yelled”, or “he said angrily”). I am reading The 516KJ8Rsa9L._SX342_BO1,204,203,200_Wild Robot with my class right now. I’ve read it before so I thought I was all good, but I didn’t skim Chapter 45 first so when we got reintroduced to the otters, I forgot that the first otter speaking was Shelly and so I read it in a low male voice – and so I backed up and reread it in a more female-coded voice. (I could have decided to just have our Shelly have a low voice – sometimes I think it’s good to adjust expectations a bit. But, I’d recommend just being intentional about it.)  Or sometimes the dialogue tag at the end will say, “he whispered.” and oops! I didn’t whisper that. Skimming the chapter ahead of time will help.

  1. Review

When continuing a read aloud of a chapter book, I have found that it’s helpful to do a quick recap of the last section.  In my class, we call this “Previously in The Wild Robot” and I’ll call on a few kids to refresh our memory of what happened and where we left off. And sometimes I’ll even reread the last paragraph or two just to pick back up the threads of the story to get that momentum back. I notice that my Audible app does this automatically – when I stop the book and restart, it goes back about 15 seconds – which is so helpful.

During the read aloud

As you are performing the story, there are three elements that when they are working well, you will have a memorable and awesome read aloud! Those three elements are your voice, your body language, and your audience.

Let’s talk about your voice first because there’s a lot going on here. First of all, project your voice. And probably more than you think you have to. I don’t know about your space, but I am battling a TON of white noise in my classroom – the heater is blowing, the projector is whirring, the class across the hall is making some noise. So you have to cut through all that and angle your mouth further up than maybe you naturally would.

When you are reading aloud a text, you want to try to find the music and rhythm in the language. It’s about how the cadence and inflection of your voice matches the tone of the scene and how the characters are feeling. If it’s something mysterious is happening, add that little question to your voice. If it’s a sad moment, then you’ll want to slow down and maybe read more carefully with that emotion coming through.

For example, on page 58 of The Wild Robot, there is the part where Roz falls down the cliff:

Expressing the right tone is about finding that rhythm, but it’s also about volume. If a character yells – you yell. And whisper those poignant lines so your class leans in to hear them. Use the dramatic slow down. Speed up when there’s energy or a chase or big climatic scene.

And repeat important parts – look up at the kids. Give them a moment to digest and think. Those lines in the book that give you a deep message, that foreshadow something later, that are the heart of the story – repeat them! And maybe emphasize a different word the second time.

Here’s an example from Chapter 37 of The Wild Robot where we first meet a new character – Chitchat the squirrel.

SO in that section, based on the cues of the text – I made my voice bouncy when Chitchat bounces across the lawn and then fast and sort of nervous when she’s talking.

Another hugely important aspect of using your voice to convey meaning is by what most kids call “doing the voices”. That’s often their biggest compliment to an adult who reads out loud to them – that they do the voices well.  And it takes some practice and some planning to figure out how to perform and almost embody those various characters. Something that has really helped me is to think about what actor or actress might be cast in that role and then try to “do” their voice.  In The Wild Robot, I modeled Roz on Alexa. The older goose, Loudwing, was Julia Sweeney for some reason. Here’s an example from Chapter 44, The Runaway:

Now, YOU and the students might not hear those actors in my voice, but it helps me to keep the character’s voice straight and consistent throughout the book. And it gives me ideas of different ways that I could do different voices.

Now let’s talk about your body language!  First of all, move around the room instead of just sitting in one spot. And try gesturing with the hand not holding the book.  If a character is described as doing an action, like pointing, I’ll point. If the author has the character cough or sneeze – do that! And let your facial expressions reflect the tone of the story and mood of the characters. If there’s anxiousness in the description, furrow your brow and curl into yourself.  If they are described as smiling, I’ll smile as I say that part. And you can hear that smile in your voice. The children look for visual cues to understand the text so add a little performance to it.

A last way to really boost the engagement of your students or children during the read aloud is to get them involved in some way.

51JRcqfTfaL-1._SX409_BO1,204,203,200_Shorter picture books are easier to do this with because they can often see the words to say them. My class loves reading the colored words in books like She Persisted or You Don’t Want a Unicorn.

But it’s a bit trickier when you are reading aloud a novel. But – there are some ways to do it.  One idea is to include your audience in some kind of small action.

I remember when I was taking a graduate education class, my professor read us Seedfolks. And I vividly recall her gently placing imaginary seeds into the palms of each of our hands as she read. Just that small little thing brought us into the story, and I’ve never forgotten it.  (It also goes to show that you are never too old to enjoy a read aloud! And that you can get cool ideas by listening to experienced people read out loud.)519mQUtDjYL._SX309_BO1,204,203,200_

In our class, one of the mentor texts we use a lot is Eleven by Sandra Cisneros. And there’s this part where the teacher dumps this nasty old red cottage-cheese-smelling sweater on the desk of one of her students. So, of course when I read it aloud, I mimic dropping that sweater on a student’s desk and then aim the teacher’s dialogue at that kid.

Or one time I was reading a poem where one of the characters got their shoulder bumped by another person, so as I read that part and walked past a student I dipped down and (gently!) bumped their shoulder with mine.  Now, you have to know your kids well enough to know who would respond well to that. Adding those little actions can really get the audience more invested and involved in the story.

At the end of the read aloud

At the end of the read aloud time, when you’ve got to stop. Always try to end on a cliffhanger – even if it’s the middle of a chapter. A lot of authors are really skilled at those chapter endings but you want to leave them wanting more! Begging to read just one more chapter! And sometimes – indulge them!

Most importantly – enjoy yourself!  If you are having fun reading the story and you are getting into it – your kids will love it, too.

51fDe0NaimL._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_There a hundred reasons why read alouds are so important. Of course it models fluency and introduces sophisticated vocabulary. I’ll just end by  mentioning that many accomplished readers talk so fondly about those early experiences being read to that sparked that passion for story in their lives. For me, that’s my 4th grade teacher, Mrs. Simile, reading The Search for Delicious to us. I just fell head over heels for that story in a way that it became part of me. Read alouds create this shared experience that you and those children will have forever.

And now – I would love to hear from you! I am always looking for ways to improve my read alouds, and I’m sure our listeners would love more ideas as well. And I am sure you have some awesome suggestions! You can email me at booksbetween@gmail.com or connect with me on Twitter/Instagram at the handle @Books_Between.

Colby Sharp – Interview Outline

Our guest this week is Colby Sharp! He is a teacher, one of the founders of the Nerdy Book Club site, a co-host of The Yarn podcast, organizer of NerdCamp Michigan, and now…. author of The Creativity Project!  A few weeks ago we sat down to chat about the book, what’s been inspiring him in his classroom, books he’s been reading, and so much more!

Take a listen…

The Creativity Project

The Creativity Project will finally make its way into the world this March. How did this project get started?

Logistically – how did the exchange of prompts work and how did you decide who received which prompt? Did you get to see them before they went out?

Are there some responses that are really memorable to you?TCP-Promo-Cover-PromptMap-v4-flat-600

I love that The Creativity Project works not only as an anthology that you could just enjoy as a reader, but also as a spur to your own writing. It’s going to be a great resource for teachers!

Have you used the prompts in your own classroom?

What writing projects are you working on now?

Your Teaching Life

You recently switched grade levels – going from teaching 3rd grade to 5th grade. How has that been going for you?neverstop

What have been some of your favorite, most memorable teaching moments with your students this year?

What does reading look like in your class?

Your Reading Life

Something that I think about a lot is how sometimes it only takes ONE person to really influence a child’s reading life – either in a positive way or sometimes in a negative way.

Was there someone in your life who impacted you as a reader?

What have you been reading lately that you’ve liked?

Links:

cropped-justcolby_72_crop-22Colby’s website – https://www.mrcolbysharp.com

Colby on Twitter and Instagram

Student Podcasts: Colby’s Students & Corrina’s Students

 

Books & Authors We Chatted About:

Hatchet (Gary Paulsen)

Holes (Louis Sachar)

Enticing Hard to Reach Writers (Ruth Ayres)

The Truth as Told By Mason Buttle (Leslie Connor)

Freak the Mighty (Rodman Philbrick)

See You in the Cosmos (Jack Cheng)

BB45Books

Closing

Alright, that wraps up our show this week!

If you have a question about how to connect kids between 8-12 to books they’ll love or a suggestion about a topic we should cover, I would love to hear from you. You can email me at booksbetween@gmail.com or message me on Twitter/Instagram at the handle @Books_Between.

Books Between is a proud member of the Education Podcast Network. This network EPN_badgefeatures podcasts for educators, created by educators. For more great content visit edupodcastnetwork.com

Thank you so much for joining me this week. You can get an outline of interviews and a full transcript of all the other parts of our show at MGBookVillage.org. And, if you are liking the show, please leave us some love on iTunes or Stitcher so others can discover us as well.

Thanks and see you soon!  Bye!

CorrinaAllen

Corrina Allen is a 5th grade teacher in Central New York and mom of two energetic tween girls. She is passionate about helping kids discover who they are as readers.

Corrina is the host of Books Between – a podcast to help teachers, parents, and librarians connect children between 8 and 12 to books they’ll love.

Find her on Twitter at @corrinaaallen or Instagram at @Corrina_Allen.

 

A Conversation with Jack Cheng: Books Between, Episode 44

Episode Outline:

You can listen to the episode here.

Intro

Hi and welcome to the Books Between Podcast! I believe in the power of stories to inspire us and to change our lives for the better. And I know that being a reader encourages us to be more empathetic and to be better citizens in our world.  And I want to help you connect kids with those amazing, life-changing stories and bring you inspiring (and fun!) conversations with the authors and educators who make that magic happen.  Every other Monday, I bring you book talks, interviews, and ideas for getting great books into the hands of kids between 8-12.

I am Corrina Allen – a mom of two tween girls, a teacher to 23 fifth graders, and I’ve beenScreen Shot 2018-02-26 at 12.46.42 AM planning a baby shower this week! My brother (who is also a teacher) and his wife (whois a librarian) are expecting their first this April. So – of course, I had to throw them a picture book themed baby shower.

 

This is Episode #44 and today I’m sharing with you a conversation with author Jack Cheng about his debut middle grade novel (and the MG at Heart February Book Club pick) See You in the Cosmos! And then I’ll end with a Q&A.

A few quick announcements. For those participating in the MG at Heart Books Club – the Twitter Chat to discuss See You in the Cosmos will be on Monday, March 6th at 8pm EST. Just follow the Hashtag #mgbookclub and I’ll see you there! Also, the March book is The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street by Karina Yan Glaser. And the April book is The Parker Inheritance by Varian Johnson. If you want to know the rest of the schedule along with other great middle great content, please head over to MGBookVillage.org – we have a book-release calendar and a great blog. One of my favorites from this past week is the post from Sayantani Dasgupta (author of The Serpent’s Secret) called “Nothing About Us Without Us: Writing #OwnVoices Fantasy in the Age of Black Panther”  – if you haven’t read it yet – it’s great. (And go see Black Panther – it was phenomenal!!)

So – there’s lots going on at MGBookVillage. It’s where all the transcripts of this podcast can be found. And – Kathie and Jarrett and Annaliese and I have been cooking up something pretty awesome for March. So stayed tuned!

 

Jack Cheng – Interview Outline

Joining me this month to ask Jack Cheng questions is one of the founders of the MG at Heart Book Club – and an author herself , Cindy Baldwin. Her novel, Where the Watermelons Grow, is out this July. We got the chance to connect with Jack on Skype last week and here is our conversation…

See You in the Cosmos

CA: For our listeners who haven’t yet read the novel, can you tell us a bit about Alex’s journey in See You in the Cosmos?cheng_jack

CA: The premise of this book is that the entire thing is recorded on Alex’s Golden iPod.  What were some aspects of writing the novel that were challenging because of that decision?

CB: Did you ever consider writing it another way?

CB: Alex is such a pitch-perfect balance of being really naive but also really precocious and shouldering a lot of adult responsibility. How did you strike that sweet spot in his voice between a kid who’s shouldering adult responsibilities but also being really clueless?

CB: How did you figure out how to assign time logs to the recorded entries? Did you read any of them aloud or was it all random guesswork?  

CA: Where you a fan of Carl Sagan’s Cosmos?  

JL: Yours is the second recently released kidlit book I’ve read in the past few months that voyager_golden_record_large_clock-r1f6c4faf1974455bac41f648cd2d6ad2_fup13_8byvr_324features the Voyager Golden Record and spacecraft centrally. (The Care and Feeding of a Pet Black Hole is the other one.)  Carl Sagan said that “the launching of this ‘bottle’ into the cosmic ‘ocean’ said something very hopeful about life on this planet. I’d love to know what YOU think it is about the Golden Record project, and the launching of it out into space, that so captures and ignites the imagination, and why it might be a powerful thing for young people in particular to learn about.

CB: Have you ever built a rocket? And what kind of research did you do?

Your Writing Life / See You on the Bookshelf Podcast

CA: I just loved your podcast – See You on the Bookshelf – where you interview all the different people who helped make See You in the Cosmos as reality – from your agent and editor and copyeditor to the audio people. Why did you decide to create podcast to document the journey of your novel?See You in the Cosmos by Jack Cheng

CA: Did I hear that See You in the Cosmos was originally written as an adult book? If so – what changes did you make to angle your writing more toward middle grade?

CB: You tackle some serious topics in this book. You touch on child neglect, mental illness, running away, infidelity… What made you decide to explore these issues in this book? Why do you think it’s important to address difficult, mature topics like this in middle grade?

CB: Do you feel like you’ll continue to experiment with unusual formats in your work in the future?

CA: What are you working on now?

Your Reading Life

CA: One of the goals of this podcast is to help educators and librarians inspire kids to read more and connect them with amazing books. Did you have a teacher or librarian in your life who helped you grow into a reader?

CB: What role did reading have on your decision to be a writer?

CA: What are you reading now?

Thank You!Processed with VSCO with a6 preset

Links:

Jack’s website – https://jackcheng.com

Jack on Twitter and Instagram

Jack’s See You on the BookShelf Podcast

Original Cosmos Series

Information about the Voyager Golden Record

Audio version of See You in the Cosmos

Books & Authors We Chatted About:

Pale Blue Dot (Carl Sagan)

The Care and Feeding of a Pet Black Hole (Michelle Cuevas)

The Kid Who Only Hit Homers (Matt Christopher)

Orphan Island (Laurel Snyder)

Origin of Species (Charles Darwin)

Q & A

This week I’m going to end by addressing some questions and comments that I have been getting a lot over the last two weeks. In the wake of the most recent school shooting, at the Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida on February 14th – many many people have emailed and messaged me to express their anguish and to simply ask, “How is everyone doing?”  I know a lot you listening have been reaching out to me and to each other and hoping that maybe something’s different this time.

Every time I record a show I start by saying that I am a mom and I am a teacher.  And living in this society that glorifies gun violence and seems to tolerate it against its most vulnerable, I want to tell you what that means.

So as a mom, it means that my husband and I send our girls to school and we hope and feel lucky when they come home safely. As a mom, it means that your heart shreds a little more every time your child comes home and tells you where they hid during that day’s drill.  And as a mom, it means all too often I need to pull over to the side of the road on the way home from work to dry my tears at the latest news of yet another shooting of a child – in a school or in a neighborhood where all they’ve done wrong is wear a hooded sweatshirt. But as mom, you pull yourself together so you can listen to your children tell you about their day without dimming their smiles.

And I am also a teacher living in a culture where we and our students have become prey. And I want to tell you what that means.

It means that twice a year my students and I practice a lock down in case a shooter is in the school. They hide. Try to be quiet. And I shut the lights and hover near that locked door and plan how I might react if it wasn’t a drill. How could I use my body to shield theirs. Is there something nearby I can grab and use as a weapon?

A stapler?  Should I have grabbed that screwdriver out of the science kit?  

And I know it would never stop them. But it might just slow them down, a little. So that some could escape and there might be one less family to suffer that unimaginable grief of losing a child.

But being that shield would mean that my own children would be left without a mother.  And yet – all teachers I know do it willingly and gladly. Because we protect our kids – no matter what. That is the deal.

And I know my own teachers would have done the same. I know my daughters’ teachers would do the same. They’d protect those lives with their own.  But our society has broken that promise of protection.

And it is a heavy heavy burden placed on the shoulders of our children and our teachers. And it is too much. And I’ve even been asked – well, hey – what if you had a gun? Couldn’t you save more kids? First of all, a handgun is no match for assault weapon. And even a highly trained professional only averages an 18-25% accuracy rate in that kind of situation. When I think of where those other bullets might go in a school? For that reason and for a thousand more – NO! If you want to arm us, arm us with more counselors who serve students and not just sit in meetings about testing!

It’s already too much. But in return for that heavy burden on our children and their teachers – the drills, the anxiety that comes with every news story and every false alarm (and there are so many more of them than you know) – we expect action to end this brutal, soul-crushing gun violence. Action from our representatives, but also action from YOU.  Please.

Because our government WILL act. Once we are LOUD enough. And make them feel uncomfortable enough. And it’s really no surprise to me that the generation who grew up reading about Malala are at the forefront of this. They cut their teeth on the stories of brave young activists. They have finally gotten some momentum, so let’s help them.  I’ve called my representatives three times a week, and I’m going to the March for Our Lives on March 24th.

So I am begging you – please if you live in the US. – please help. Call the people who claim to represent you and I’ll see you at the march.

 

CorrinaAllen

Corrina Allen is a 5th grade teacher in Central New York and mom of two energetic tween girls. She is passionate about helping kids discover who they are as readers.

Corrina is the host of Books Between – a podcast to help teachers, parents, and librarians connect children between 8 and 12 to books they’ll love.

Find her on Twitter at @corrinaaallen or Instagram at @Corrina_Allen.