Why’d the Chicken Cross the Road?…

Exit Strategy by Lauren Allbright

I really wanted to start this blog with a joke, since this book is about a boy, Ross, who researches different ways to be funny after accidentally making a humorous exit from a school before he and his mom moved to another place. But even after reading the book, I realized I am not funny and any attempts might make you stop reading this post now. So I will tell about how I had an opportunity to meet the lovely author of the book, Exit Strategy at Second Star to the Right Books a few weeks ago. Lauren Allbright came into the Rumpus Room (back garage of the store where they hold events) with her three adorable and enthusiastic children, all wearing t-shirts with the book cover on them and the #justshowupbooktour. Lauren was so sweet talking to all the other girls who attended and then came over to me to introduce herself. She told me the whole family was traveling in an RV during the summer for her book tour, so cool! Once I arrived it started to rain, something that rarely happens in Denver, but when it does, you are usually guaranteed sun in a few hours. Go figure it started to rain harder as more people showed up. Once the wet fans arrived Lauren talked to the crowd about her book and read an excerpt.

 

While Lauren signed books I asked her a few interview questions, I later emailed her some of them and others.

Please read what she had to say when asked, 3 questions about the book and 3 questions about her…

3 Questions about Exit Strategy

What three words would you use to describe your book?

Funny, sincere, and redeeming.

We love how there is a layer of the book that can teach/reinforce graphs and charts!  When making the book, what was the process for picking which graph/chart would fit appropriately?

After I researched how to be funny and what people perceived to be funny, I put it all in a flow chart. When I first started my research, I was doing it for me son and I wanted to give him a graphic with the info. Then I thought, “This is helpful to me!” which led to thinking about all the time I could have used a handy-dandy chart to tell me to tell the joke or keep it to myself. (I STILL need the chart sometimes!) Somewhere in there, the idea for EXIT STRATEGY got planted. Since I knew I wanted to use the flowchart at the end of the book, it made sense for there to be graphics throughout. I browsed science fair projects (thank you, Pinterest!)  to see which ones I liked and which ones supported the story. Making the charts and graphs were my favorite part of writing this book! They also helped me really understand the main character and how he sees the world.

What research did you do to learn more about how to be funny?

This was overwhelming at first! “Funny” is such an abstract concept (and changes based on the situation and setting). I started out reading websites and interviews by comedians and took a bunch of notes. After that I watched TV shows with laugh tracks and paid a lot of attention to when the laugh tracks were played–that is where the producers WANT you to laugh. When I heard them, I’d ask, “Was that funny to me?” and “Why did I think that was funny or not funny.” I also watched people as they watched TV or chatted with others and noted what made them literally laugh out loud. And, of course, I have my own field research–years of trying to be funny (and often failing!).

3 Questions about You

If you weren’t a writer, what would you want to be and why?

I’d love to be a dancer for a famous singer. I am not that talented, but I LOVE to dance and move and work hard at a physical goal.

What is one book that has stuck with you since you’ve read it?

I just finished THE HATE U GIVE by Angie Thomas. It is very timely, of course, but Angie is so good at creating a story and showing (rather than telling) how people can react and how the same situation can be viewed very differently. THE HATE U GIVE is so textured and layered, there is so much to absorb and think about.

What is one item in your fridge that tells us about you?

*Goes to put a random/non-food item in the fridge to make this easy to answer*

Just kidding.

A loaf of Udi’s gluten-free bread. My middle son and I have Celiac Disease, so we buy Udi’s in bulk. We always have multiple loaves in the deep freeze and one in the fridge. I wasn’t diagnosed until I was an adult (my son actually got diagnosed first and that’s how we knew how to look at Celiac for me). I was so sick as a kid. And tired. Eating gluten free doesn’t feel like a burden because I’m just so happy to be healthy now! (Though sometimes people can make me feel like I’m a burden for needing to eat sans gluten!)

But that ends on a bummer note, so how about a mom joke from the book?

Question: What do you call of firefly that backs into a fan?

Answer: De-lighted!

 

Put The Wish List On Your Wish List!

Put The Wish List on Your Wish List!

We were generously sent a copy of The Wish List:  The Worst Fairy Godmother Ever by Sarah Aronson, and I can already tell that it is going to be a hit in my third grade classroom.  It tells the story of Isabelle, a fairy godmother in training that doesn’t want to put in the work to learn all of the rules.  When Isabelle finally gets assigned her practice princess, she is less than thrilled to learn that she isn’t a princess at all, and needs to figure out how to grant her her wish when she isn’t a believer in the first place.  The Wish List is a light-hearted story of friendship and magic.  Continue reading to learn about the author behind The Wish List:  The Worst Fairy Godmother Ever, and be sure to look for her second book in the series coming out December 26th!      

 

3 Questions about The Wish List:  The Worst Fairy Godmother Ever

 What three words would you use to describe your book?

Oh no! You’re going to give me choices right off the bat? I am just like Isabelle—I over-think these kinds of questions. I don’t know if I can come up with just three words.

 Here’s my best try:

 Mostly this book is about happiness!

 But it’s also about:

 Sparkly wishes

Friendship and family

Girl Power

 Can I add fun?

And overcoming learning obstacles?

All of the above?

 This story is unique in that it is told from the fairy godmother’s perspective.  What gave you the idea for this new spin on fairy tale stories?

When I started brainstorming, I first focused on non-traditional princesses and what they had to do to get what they wanted. Along the way, I read tons of classic fairy tales—from all over the world. I discovered that fairy godmothers are not all that powerful! Having grown up with “bibbidy bobbidy boo—“ that interested me. It presented an interesting set of challenges.

 I thought about what today’s fairy godmother would need to help today’s princess achieve happily ever after and realized quickly—it wouldn’t be easy. Or traditional. I figured they would need a training program. And rules. And then I had an ah-ha moment! Having been a kid who had a hard time in school, I imagined that a fairy godmother trainee with learning issues (but spunk) would have a whole host of interesting problems. Even worse, I wondered what her story would be if she had a very smart sister, a mother with a history, and a very powerful grandmomma (with the emphasis on grand).

 As I’ve met with readers, I have realized something else about fairy godmothers. We all say we want someone to answer all our wishes. But life is better when we are fairy godmothers—when we do the granting—when we make others happily after—when we make our world better!

There was a lot of talk about their mother being gone, without it playing a major role in the story’s plot.  Will this come into play more in future books?  

YES! (But no spoilers!!!) Isabelle and Clotilda’s mom, the worst fairy godmother ever, changed this world! Her story will be part of every book.

 3 Questions about You

 If you weren’t a writer, what would you want to be and why?

When I was young, I wanted to be Barbra Streisand! (There was only one problem: I didn’t have a great voice. And someone already had that job.)

 And even though being her (or Bette Midler) might be fun, realistically speaking, if I couldn’t write, I would teach. I love hanging out with kids! (It’s one of the best parts of being a writer!!

 What is one book that has stuck with you since you’ve read it?

It’s so hard to choose!  Harriet the Spy has definitely stayed with me. (As a kid, I filled about five journals full of spying.) But The Carrot Seed is the book that I think about the most. I love books about determination—and kids who aren’t afraid to go for what they want—even when the odds are stacked against them.

What is one item in your fridge that tells us about you?

Jalapeno peppers. I like everything extra spicy!

 

Be sure to check out our post on instagram to enter a giveaway for a copy of The Wish List:  The Worst Fairy Godmother Ever **Giveaway Closed**

Empathy and Friendship Book Recommendations

In our current society, it is important more than ever to teach children to be kind and compassionate.  By modeling how to be a good friend and teaching them how to be empathetic, the hope is they begin to exhibit these behaviors in their own lives.  There are so many wonderful books out there, but these are some of our favorites that we have used in the classroom and at home that have strong themes.  What are some that you would add to the list?  

Back To School #booksnaps

In early June I was intrigued with #booksnaps when they kept popping up on my twitter feed. I would see a photo of a page from the book, the tweeter’s bitmoji and typed up text. Although most of the time I hadn’t read the book, I felt their fuel, their fire, their reaction to whatever they were reading. Wow!  If I was enjoying learning about what these people were thinking and learning during their reading, I am sure this would be a great tool to to use with my students, as they would love seeing each other’s #booksnaps and learning more about each other. It turns out the creator of #booksnaps presented at the International Society for Educational Technology (ISTE) Conference in San Antonio where 2 storymamas had the privilege of attending. We attended the ignite session for Tara Martin, #booksnaps creator. She shared during this session that she wanted to find a way to use the app her son couldn’t put down (Snapchat) to do some visual storytelling. And shortly after #booksnaps was born and has been taking the social media world by storm. Her session showed the power of #booksnaps and how it helps get into the student’s head on their thoughts and feelings toward text and how it relates to their life. Also, by using a book snap, it allows the reader to comprehend the text and internalize what the author is saying. Tara has been amazing and has created a website full of information and how-to videos on making #booksnaps. Although it started with Snapchat, she has made videos using many other apps, including Snapchat, Seesaw, Book Creator and more. Check it out! Free resources are great! Thanks Tara!

Shortly after the conference I made my first #booksnaps while reading the ARC copy of Smart Cookie by Elly Swartz. I used Snapchat, but as Tara’s website shows, many different apps can be used.

Using #booksnaps has helped me look deeper into text, share my thoughts, and also remember more parts of the story. I can only imagine the impact it will have with my students when I introduce it to them. Beside the impact, I know the students will be engaged in the process. I had so much fun finding the right words to write and bitmoji to use.

So for today we thought it would be fun to use three back to school books to show you how to use #booksnaps when reading a picture book. All 3 storymamas picked a book and tried it out.  We are all new at this and are learning as we go, but are excited to use with students. We can see it in our reading workshops and it would be great in content areas! Please feel free to comment on how you are using #booksnaps in the classroom! We hope you enjoy the books we chose and our #booksnaps!

 

 

     

 

 

Frazzled: Definitely Not a Disaster

It happens every time I walk by the “new books” section of the library…I grab every book that catches my eye, even though I have about thirty books at home waiting to be read.  I just can’t help myself!  That is exactly what happened when I walked past Frazzled for the first time.  The cover just sucked me in, and when I flipped through the pages, I knew that I both needed to read it, and pick up a copy at the bookstore for my classroom.  Trust me, you’ll feel the same.  I thought this book was spot-on to what middle grade readers would like and can relate to, with the combination of words and illustrations making it fun and enjoyable to read.  While at the ALA conference, I was able to get an advance copy of the next book in the Frazzled series, coming out September 26th.  It didn’t disappoint!  Enjoy our interview with the talented author and illustrator of Frazzled: Everyday Disasters and Impending Doom, and Frazzled: Ordinary Mishaps and Inevitable Catastrophes, Booki Vivat!  

 

3 Questions about Frazzled

What three words would you use to describe your books?

Funny – Abbie is a very expressive, dramatic character. That combined with all the complications of middle school life makes for some pretty hilarious moments. Plus, it’s full of lots of entertaining doodles that help get readers into Abbie’s head!

Honest – Writing Frazzled was a very personal experience for me. I wanted to capture the middle school experience as honestly as I could. Because of this, many aspects of Abbie’s story are rooted in my own experiences at that age. Even though Abbie is a fictional character, so much of her personality and feelings are influenced by who I was when I was younger and the memories I have from middle school!

Empowering – Abbie goes into middle school feeling overwhelmed and underprepared. At first, she really just wants to survive, but what she learns is that even in her angst and uncertainty, she has power and a voice and the ability to change the world around her. I hope readers will read this book and feel empowered in whatever they’re dealing with in their own lives!

 

When writing a hybrid book like this, what is the process to figuring out what the pages will look like?

My process for each page is a little different—and that’s actually what makes it so exciting and fun to write! When I first started the Frazzled series, I’d never written an illustrated novel like this before, so I spent a lot of time trying to figure out my writing process. It wasn’t until I began writing and drawing simultaneously that the whole process began to flow naturally. Sometimes I’d write a scene and figure out what I wanted to draw later, other times I had an image in my head and would write around that. Frazzled is heavily illustrated, but it’s much less structured than a comic or graphic novel. The layout and structure varies from page to page, so my creative process is constantly adapting and evolving as I tell the story.

Being in the publishing world, you’ve been around books quite a lot! What inspired you to take your doodles and turn them into something more?  

The idea for Frazzled actually came from a pretty dramatic drawing of me that said “I live my life in a constant state of impending doom.” It made me think about when I first started feeling that way, and I realized it all went back to middle school.

I knew that there were a lot of stories about the middle school experience, but growing up, I never really saw many characters who looked like me. I think, to some extent, that lack of representation and visibility was always at the back of my mind, so when it came to telling this story, it felt like Abbie Wu was the right character to help me do it. Through Abbie, I was inspired to not just explore those frazzled middle school feelings, but to write my younger self into a literary landscape where I hadn’t really existed before.

 

3 Questions about You

If you weren’t a writer, what would you want to be and why?

Is it cheating to say that I would still want to do something with books and kids? I can’t imagine doing anything else! I’d actually love to be a children’s librarian. A good librarian can make such a huge difference for young readers. Growing up, I was really lucky to know some amazing librarians. They hosted book clubs, organized fun reading events, and always had a great new recommendation waiting for me when I finished a book. Plus, it would be really fun talking to kids and getting them excited about books!

 

What is one book that has stuck with you since you’ve read it?

The most recent book I’ve read that I can’t stop thinking about is Orphan Island by Laurel Snyder. It perfectly captures everything I felt (and sometimes still feel) about growing up and not knowing what that means and having to do it anyway. It’s one of those books that asks all the right questions, but doesn’t necessarily prescribe answers. It lets readers figure those out for themselves, and I love that. It’s been a while, but I’m still thinking about how I felt when I read Orphan Island. Honestly, I want everyone to read it so we can talk about it!

Laurel Snyder talks a little bit about her book on The Nerdy Book Club blog here: https://nerdybookclub.wordpress.com/2017/05/24/what-i-was-thinking-about-by-laurel-snyder/.

What is one item in your fridge that tells us about you?

I always have some ice cream in my fridge… even though I live next door to an ice cream shop. (Really, I do!) I don’t know what that says about me, though. Maybe that means I like to be prepared. Or maybe it just tells you that I really like ice cream.

How Will You Make Your Mark?

33 days until…

A book and a day dedicated to discussing with kids how to make their mark on the world…one of our favorite days to celebrate as educator moms! This year Dot Day is on September 15, 2017, are you celebrating? If you’re either an educator or a parent, or both, celebrating this day is important, it’s fun, it’s exciting, it’s international. So if you are planning on celebrating share with us your ideas in the comments below and take a look at some of our ideas too! Parents and educators are great at “stealing ideas”, well maybe let’s say getting inspiration from others, that seems less negative and after all Dot Day is all about positivity!

To get started on Dot Day you have to find a copy of the book by the infamous Peter H. Reynolds, The Dot. Did you know that the book has been published in so many different languages, even the website about International Dot Day doesn’t quite know the number of languages! (The book is that good!)

After acquiring the book (I suggest buying because you’re going to want a copy for yourself) we have some ideas that would work in a classroom or at home or even both. As our readers we know you are very creative and could adapt any of the activities below to something that will work for you and the children you are around.

VIDEOS/OTHER MEDIA:

We like to show the following video of “The Dot” song by the famous children’s book singer, Emily Arrow and author/illustrator, Peter Reynolds. Be warned though it’s pretty catchy so you may be singing it way beyond Dot Day! 😉

And here’s another version of the song without the book images and Emily’s smiling face

Something that children are often intrigued by (and let’s be honest, adults too) is learning the story behind the creation and idea of a book. So here Peter Reynolds talks about the beginnings of The Dot. It’s about 2 minutes and 45 seconds long so short and sweet.

ACTIVITIES:

  • Wonderopolis

If you haven’t used Wonderopolis in your classroom or at home, it’s time to start! It’s an informative and interesting collection of wonders from science to history to How Do You Connect the Dots, which is perfect for Dot Day!

  • The 30 Dot Challenge

Using this sheet create a collaborative piece of dot art. First make sure children have a variety of writing utensils (pencils, crayons, markers). Give each artist 3 minutes to fill in as many dots as they can by drawing something different in each circle. Some ideas are patterns, doodles, shapes, animals, plants, words, or create something using more than one circle. This is really for the artist to challenge him/herself to draw using the dot as the guide. Anything goes, but try not to give too much direction and let the children be creative. After the three minutes is up you can have the kids share their favorite, the most challenging, the one that took the most time, whichever dot they would like. To make it collaborative you can cut all or a few circles out and glue onto one big sheet of paper so everyone’s dot is represented, everyone has put their mark on the art piece.

USING TECHNOLOGY:

  • Watch Your Dot Come to Life…

This activity takes a little pre-work as you need to make sure you’ve downloaded the free app Quiver3D on a device.Then you need to make sure you have enough copies of this Dot Day free download of the specific paper you will need. Then let the kiddos create their own special dot using the paper. The app will make the dot come to life and you and the kids will be enthralled and amazed at what you will see. If you’re in a classroom setting or at home you can take a screenshot of the alive dot to save it. Here’s one that I did a few years back when the app was called ColAR but it’s the same idea.

Thank You Second Star

#authorsaturday brings you a tribute to all the amazing authors and illustrators I have met at Second Star To The Right Books . I wrote about this independent bookstore before in a post titled Friendsgiving From the moment you walk into this store they make everyone feel at home.

Over the past 2 years I have encountered many wonderful authors and illustrators! Meeting them has allowed me to bring new books into my life to share with my kids, students, and storymamas audience! If you are ever in Denver please go visit them. If you aren’t in the area, please look to local independent bookstores or even public libraries for author events.

 

             

 

 

 

 

 

Thank you Second Star for embracing me and my boys and for helping me grow as a mom and educator. I will miss everyone as I move to a different city!

Here is a list of the authors/illustrators I met and are featured in my picture collage above:

Abby Cooper

http://www.abbycooperauthor.com/

Jennifer Chambliss Bertman

http://jenniferchamblissbertman.com/

Lauren Allbright

http://www.laurenallbright.com/


Todd Fahnestock

http://www.toddfahnestock.com/


Miriam Busch

http://miriambuschauthor.com/
Larry Day

http://larrydayillustration.com/

Claudia Mills

http://www.claudiamillsauthor.com/


Leuyen Pham

http://www.leuyenpham.com/leuyenphamstudios.html

Shannon Hale
http://www.squeetus.com/stage/main.html


Andrea Wang

http://andreaywang.com/


Melanie Crowder

http://melaniecrowder.net/

Carmela LaVigna Coyle

http://carmelacoyle.com/

 

 

Be Better…

She makes you want to be a better…

… friend

…citizen

…teacher

…parent

…stranger

…everything

She’s Amy Krouse Rosenthal (AKR). An amazing leader of kindness, a creative writer, a filmmaker, an exceptional thinker. Yesterday I visited the Carrie Secrist Gallery in Chicago to see the Amy Krouse Rosenthal: A Beauty Salon exhibit. It was moving, magical, thoughtful, creative, heartfelt; I could go on and on about how unbelievable it was. The beautiful gallery was filled with a huge yellow wall with words of truth and kindness, beanbags, coffee, AKR’s work, movies and of course books, lots of her gorgeous books. I love her books, I love her word play, I love her out-the-box thinking. She has so many wonderful books and you’re missing out if you haven’t read one, or let’s be honest, every single one of them.

If you’re around the city in the next few days, definitely stop in the gallery, the exhibit closes on August 12th.  

If you’re not in the city and aren’t able to make it before then, here are a few highlights from my day today:

Her work and her ideas…

The amazing “I Was Here” wall…

It is meant to be interactive. A place you can share your thoughts, drawings, sign your name or respond to a prompt. Some of my favorites were:

While the prompt changed a few times throughout the exhibit, yesterday it said, “Think about what ATM stands for in your mind, grab one of these pens, and write it.”

To Amy, ATM stood for Always Trust Magic. Here are some ATM’s. Mine is up there somewhere. What would you write?

The movie that made me tear up…

The Money Tree

I leave you with this (even though it wasn’t in the exhibit) but because you’re a reader of our blog, which most likely means you’re a booklover like us, just marvel at a video AKR made of her Book-Filled House (you can find more of her videos on her blog).

Inspired? Exhilarated? Want to do something kind? You can…you can read her books to children, you can participate in acts of kindness, you can donate to the AKR Yellow Umbrella Foundation, you can do something, anything that shares happiness, love and kindness with others.

What’s an Infinity Year?


3 ?s  about The Infinity Year of Avalon James

What are three words you use to describe your book?

Real, Magical, Exciting (I hope…)

How did you come up with the idea behind the infinity year? Is your book fantasy, and the infinity year a real thing that actually happens?  Or is it realistic fiction and the infinity year was something made up by his grandfather?

Well, that all depends on the reader.  I’ve been very pleased that kids completely buy into the magic of the Infinity Year. It doesn’t even occur to them that it might be something made up by the grandfather. Adults are usually more on the fence about it. And I’m happy to leave them there!

Where it came from – here’s the truth. The Infinity Year originally came to me from the thought that an infinity sign is really a sideways eight — and Avalon and Atticus were eight years old in the first draft. Then, my perceptive agent, Susan Hawk, broke the news to me that Avalon was not an eight year old (in her voice and manner) but a ten year old. So, I had to rework the Infinity Year completely. Of course, that completely freaked me out but after all this time, I like it better the way it is now.

What thoughts about friendship do you want kids to walk away with when they are done reading?

That friendship is fragile and friendship is strong. Avalon and Atticus are not alike but they care deeply for each other and their differences end up being part of the glue that holds them together. I want kids to know it’s important to choose friends who are loyal, brave, kind, and fun and that it’s also important to be that kind of friend.

3 ?s about You

If you weren’t a writer, what would you want to be and why?

A photographer. A singer. A tightrope walker. But it’s probably a good idea I stick with writer.

What is one book that has stuck with you since you’ve read it?

I recently finished Circus Mirandus by Cassie Beasley and that stuck with me. I’m a sucker for a magical world and I loved how Cassie created a beautiful and challenging story about a grandson and grandfather. And she’s from Georgia, like me, so that’s cool, too.

What is one item in your fridge that tells us about you?

Can it be from my freezer? There’s a cookie in there from the book launch of The Infinity Year of Avalon James, frozen since October. It’s not a regular cookie, mind. It’s a cookie  with a picture of the book on top and it’s the greatest cookie I’ve ever seen in my entire life!

We All Need a Dog in Our Lives

img_9801-1.jpgI finished reading Dog Man Unleashed by Dav Pilkey and thought it was a great graphic novel. This is the second book in the Dog Man series and it tells more about how Dog Man fights the villians. My favorite part is when Flat Petey uses the magical spray to be bad and Dog Man beats him. I love the illustrations and how creative the story is. It is also very funny; even my mom liked it. Dav is also the author of Captain Underpants, another favorite series of mine. Dav is truly talented and I can’t wait for Dog Man #3 and #4 to come out later this year!

 

Charlie M. is a third grader who loves reading, video games, and playing sports.  And he loves chewing gum.