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The Shadow Lantern
Author: Teresa Flavin
Published July 22nd, 2014 by Candlewick Press

Publisher’s Summary: It’s Halloween at the Blackhope Tower and the spirits are rising… When a mysterious oil lantern and a box of painted slides appear at Blackhope Tower, Sunni and Blaise are drawn back to the place where their adventures first began. When they discover that the slides conceal secrets about artist-magician Fausto Corvo, the pair find themselves once again caught up in a deadly pursuit. An old enemy is still tracking Corvo and will stop at nothing to find him. Sunni and Blaise must fight to protect Corvo’s secrets and rid themselves of Soranzo’s evil threat once and for all.

Sunni and Blaise face their most dangerous challenge yet in their third and final adventure.

The Shadow Lantern is the third book in The Blackhope Enigma trilogy.

Book 1’s Publisher’s Summary: For centuries, Blackhope Tower has been shrouded in intrigue, centering on a labyrinth and painting in the Mariner’s Chamber. When fourteen-year-old Sunni Forrest visits the tower and sees her stepbrother, Dean, disappear, seemingly into the painting itself, she must find him and risk being drawn into the heart of the Blackhope enigma. This action-packed debut follows Dean, Sunni, and her friend Blaise on a journey to the heart of an age-old mystery.

An ancient painting, a magical labyrinth, and skeletons found in a locked room.

Book Trailer: 

Scribd Chapter Sampler: http://www.scribd.com/doc/201971141/The-Shadow-Lantern-Chapter-Sampler

About the Author: Teresa Flavin was born in New York and studied art in Boston and at Syracuse University. After moving to Glasgow, Scotland, she was awarded the Scottish Arts Council New Writers Bursary. She has illustrated a number of picture books. Her first novel, The Blackhope Enigma, was nominated for a Cybil Award. Teresa Flavin lives in Scotland.

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Today we are lucky enough to have Teresa here at Unleashing Readers to talk to us about her process:

I’m a planner, pure and simple. Once an idea for a story has taken hold in my head, I make notes, create mind maps and get the bones of it down on paper. At the same time, I don’t want to have every scene mapped out so tightly the story can’t breathe and evolve in an unexpected and interesting way – which it inevitably does!

I look forward to previously unplanned characters showing up on the page wanting a piece of the action. And because I find so much inspiration in history, and do a fair amount of research, I often stumble on a nugget of information that can move my story in exciting and serendipitous ways. For example, when I learned that the development of some artists’ paint pigments was tied up with alchemy, I saw what a great element it could bring to the second story in the trilogy, The Crimson Shard.

Before I get too far with a new story I share a short synopsis with my agent because she’s great at asking tough questions that test the bones of my idea. I revise that synopsis until we both consider it viable, knowing that the story will change a lot. When I look back over old versions of my synopses I am astonished at how much the stories evolved before I even started writing them.

Once I know roughly where a story is going, I write it from start to finish. I am not good at skipping around and writing scenes out of order. That would feel like fast-forwarding the film and missing important links in the middle. I admire authors who can work in a non-linear way but I prefer my own method. I like how a story unfolds, how one scene influences the next.

If I’m on a deadline, I write to a daily word count, breaking the story down into manageable chunks. Some days are definitely more productive than others! I revise my finished manuscript at least two or three times on the recommendations of my editors. I am infinitely grateful to all of them because they read with clarity when I am too close to the story. Though I am the writer, I see my books as team efforts, with my editors inspiring me to make the best story I can.

People often ask me whether I read other children’s books while I’m writing my own and what books influenced my trilogy. I tend to avoid reading children’s fiction while I am creating my own, but I do read adult non-fiction such as history books. If I read any fiction, it’s for grown-ups and generally quite different from the kind of fantasy books I write.

Before I started writing for young people, I read very little children’s or young adult fiction. I think that my writing is probably influenced most by the books I enjoyed as a kid, from The Chronicles of Narnia to Sherlock Holmes to Ray Bradbury stories like The Illustrated Man. If it was a colorful, atmospheric adventure, I was hooked. If my own trilogy can intrigue young readers as fully as any of the books I loved, my mission is accomplished.

Many thanks to Unleashing Readers for hosting me!

And thank you Teresa! We loved hearing about your process!

Today, you can also win your very own copy of The Shadow Lantern

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thank you so much to Teresa Flavin and Candlewick Press for the guest post and hosting the giveaway!

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Bramble and Maggie: Horse Meets Girl
Published March 27th, 2012 by Candlewick Press
Bramble and Maggie: Give and Take
Published April 23, 2013 by Candlewick Press
Bramble and Maggie: Spooky Season
Published August 12th, 2014 by Candlewick Press
Author: Jessie Haas
Illustrator: Alison Friend

Bramble and Maggie: Horse Meets Girl Goodreads Summary: Come along for a spirited ride as Bramble – a horse with interesting “little ways”- and her devoted girl, Maggie, make their debut in this inviting early reader.

Maggie wants a pony to ride and take care of, and to prepare she’s been reading a big book on horse care. Meanwhile, Bramble is bored with giving riding lessons and walking in circles. She’s looking for just the right person to take her away from her routine. Is it a perfect match? Maggie loves Bramble as soon as she sees her, but there are some things Bramble has to be sure of. Will Maggie let Bramble venture into new places? Will she protect Bramble from strange objects in the yard? Will she, most importantly, know when Bramble needs her undivided attention? This charming and funny early reader is an ideal match for young animal lovers and anyone who has ever longed for a friend who truly understands.

Bramble and Maggie: Give and Take Goodreads Summary: Maggie and her mischievous horse, Bramble, are back for another spirited romp through the ins and outs of friendship.

Maggie loves introducing her new horse, Bramble, to the neighborhood, the beach, and the backyard. Bramble has fun too, once she is cajoled into participating by a well-timed carrot or two. But when Maggie has to go to school, Bramble is bored and lonely and gets into some trouble with Mr. Dingle next door. A misbehaving hen and a midnight visitor finally help to turn Bramble into a good neighbor. This charming and funny early reader flows at just the right pace for kids who are learning that others don’t always do exactly what you want, but that friends find a way to give and take.

Bramble and Maggie: Spooky Season Goodreads Summary: Bramble, a persnickety but lovable horse, and Maggie, her patient owner, build an even stronger friendship as they brave the surprises of autumn.

In their third adventure, Bramble and Maggie explore a new season together — fall! Leaves crunch underfoot. Acorns ping off rooftops. It all makes Bramble feel wonderfully spooky. But Bramble’s frisky-pretend-scary gait makes Maggie jumpy, and soon Bramble really is nervous. There are alarming new sights and sounds everywhere, like Mr. Dingle’s scarecrow. When Maggie takes a fall, will she want to get back in the saddle? And when Halloween comes, can Maggie trust Bramble to brave the tricks and lead them both safely to the treats?

Kellee’s Review: There is a very specific time in a kid’s life where they are ready to begin reading longer books, but not ready to tackle chapter books yet. This is where Bramble and Maggie fits. These early chapter books will are perfect texts to help lead kids to longer chapter books. The work well for their targeted age level in that they never speak down to readers and have excellently paced stories that hold readers’ attention and will help them feel successful.  On top of all this, the Bramble and Maggie stories are just so sweet! I love all the different adventures they go on and the lessons they learn like overcoming fear, conquering loneliness, and gaining responsibility. Readers will adore these books. 

Ricki’s Review: Kellee hit the nail on the head. As I was reading, I thought to myself, “Why didn’t I have these books available to me when I was transitioning to chapter books?” I remember being devastated that my books no longer had pictures in them, and I resisted the longer texts for this reason. This series is engaging, educative, and fun! The words repeat in ways that will help students learn the vocabulary, particularly the more difficult words that relate to horses. Each book delivers a strong message, and the bond between Bramble and Maggie is one which will connect with readers. When I think about these books, I will always remember Maggie dragging her sleeping bag to the stable to sleep beside Bramble. I can’t wait to share these books with my pre-service elementary school teachers. They will have a special place in classrooms.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Readers would be wise to explore how Haas develops theme in these texts. Each individual book has a different theme, and the content beautifully incorporates the messages. These books would be great models for students to learn about implicit versus explicit themes.

Discussion Questions: What lessons has Maggie learned since she has gotten Bramble? What lessons has Bramble learned since he’s met Maggie?; How has Bramble changed since he went to live with Maggie?; In what ways does the author show the bond of friendship throughout the books?

We Flagged: “Bramble lowered her head. Maggie gave her a carrot, and Bramble took it. She let Maggie put on the bridle. This was better. Give and take” (p. 9 of Bramble and Maggie: Give and Take)

Read This If You Loved: The Franklin School Friends series by Claudia Mills, The Pony Mysteries series by Jeanne Betancourt, and The Pony Scout series by Catherine Hapka

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Q & A with Jessie Haas

What inspired you to write this series? What inspired you to write about a horse?

I was inspired by two things in writing the Bramble and Maggie books. First, I had a story rejected by Candlewick, but with a request attached. The editor had girls who loved horses and horse books and had read some of mine and they noticed that they were always checked out of the public library. So Candlewick asked if I would like to write a couple of books for beginning readers.

At the time I had just gotten a new horse, Robin. She has a somewhat prickly personality, which I think inspired Bramble’s name, and the way horses and people mesh with each other was on my mind. Of course, I knew my version of events, but I’m always aware that horses have their own points of view, so the story would need to be told from both Bramble’s and Maggie’s perspectives.

What was it like to work with an illustrator? What does the process look like?

Like most authors, I don’t actually “work with” the illustrator. The editor and I work until we have a solid draft. Then the text is sent to the illustrator and she sends sketches. When the editor and I see them, it becomes obvious where we need to add or drop words (usually drop) to make space on the page. A lot of times, the art is telling the story already, and that makes some of the words unnecessary.

Alison Friend lives in England, so we did have one big change she needed to make in the first book. The wonderful picture at the beginning of Chapter Two, with Maggie and her family in the car, had the steering wheel on the right, as in British cars. I must admit, it took me a few times looking at the pictures to spot that. The pencil sketches are always funny and energetic, but the magic happens when Alison begins to paint, and it is always tremendously exciting to see the finished pages. And I got to see the original art for Spooky Season, which was thrilling. I think Spooky Season is one of the most beautiful books I have ever had published.

How do you envision your texts being taught in classrooms? Do you have any suggestions for our viewers who are teachers?

I’m usually stumped by that question. Now, though, I have a great new curriculum guide (it’s a free download on my website) I love some of the ideas there. Spooky Season, the newest book, explores the theme of fear—how we pretend to be afraid (for fun), how we scare ourselves (for fun), and how we sometimes get really scared—and that’s not fun! Bramble is truly afraid of some Halloween decorations like Mr. Dingle’s scarecrow—until she finds out it’s good to eat

Maggie runs into the situation every horseman faces sooner or later. You fall off, and you know you’re supposed to get right back on, or the fear will grow and you might not be able to. That’s easier said than done, of course. But Bramble takes care of Maggie the way good horses do, and Maggie has the experience that I remember from my own life as my very first time confronting and overcoming fear. These are great discussions to have around Halloween.

For Give and Take, the discussion is more about a truly basic issue in children’s—indeed, everyone’s—lives: power. Bramble feels that no one should be the boss all of the time. There should be some give and take. As well as story sequencing discussions, this is a chance for children to talk about—and draw—a time in their own lives when they learned to share, and give a little.

And Horse Meets Girl has a wonderful activity where children are encouraged to imagine, describe and draw their ideal pet. I also love the idea of Maggie needing a babysitter for Bramble, which could be a springboard for kids writing their own stories. The curriculum guide was created for me by Blue Slip Media, working with an educational consultant who’s also an elementary school teacher, and it’s keyed to Common Core curriculum standards—so it’s educationally sound as well as fun.

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Jessie Haas has always loved horses and has written more than thirty books, most of them about horses, including the first two books ab out Bramble and Maggie. She says, “Horses love pretending to be scared, just like us, and fall is the perfect season for that. Why do they call it fall?” Jessie Haas lives in Vermont with her husband, writer Michael J. Daley; her horse; two cats; a dog; and a hen. For more information, and to download a free curriculum guide, visit her website: http://www.jessiehaas.com/.

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Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday is hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy and was started to help promote the reading of nonfiction texts. Most Wednesdays, we will be participating and will review a nonfiction text (though it may not always be a picture book).
Be sure to visit Kid Lit Frenzy and see what other nonfiction books are shared this week!

Although many elementary students enjoy and love nonfiction, this love tapers off when students get to middle school. Very few of my students read nonfiction at all. However, there is a wonderful thing happening that is helping increase the amount of nonfiction read in my school: memoir and informational nonfiction graphic novels. Here are some that I have read that my students and/or I have truly enjoyed.
(Clicking on any cover will take you to the Goodreads page or my review.)

Children’s/Middle Grade

deafo around the world primates

deadspy ironclad donner treaties

media dust bowl jay z

FC_BC_9780545132060.pdf sisters sharks dinosaursGN

Middle Grade/YA

dumbest 911 annefrank beirut

YA

fist feynman dahmer maus

Hope you and your students enjoy some nonfiction graphic novels!

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top ten tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish. The feature was created because The Broke and Bookish are particularly fond of lists (as are we!). Each week a new Top Ten list topic is given and bloggers can participate.

 Today’s Topic: Top New Series We Hope To Start At Some Point 

These series look so good! We hope we get to read them at some point.

Ricki

I saw Kellee’s list before I wrote mine, and I thought, “Oh. Yes, she should read those.” Kellee, I recommend Legend as your first series to start on your list! It is one of my favorites. Like Kellee, I am excluding series I need to finish. These are the series I have yet to begin.

1. Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling

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Okay, it is time for everyone to freak out. I’ve never read this series. I am not sure why. I fell asleep during the first movie, so maybe it isn’t for me?

2. Cinder by Marissa Meyer

CInder

I really, really want to read this series. I haven’t started it yet, but I hope to soon.

3. The Diviners by Libba Bray

diviners

Libba is an incredibly talented writer, so I am sure this series is as great as I’ve heard it is!

4. Heist Society by Ally Carter

heist society

I’ve never read an Ally Carter book, but I’ve always wanted to check them out because they are so wildly popular.

5. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

A Wrinkle in Time

I read this book when I was much younger and don’t remember anything about it. I’d like to reread it as an adult.

Kellee

This list could be 25 series long, but I kept it at 5. There are so many out there I want to read! (And this isn’t even including all the series I’ve started and need to finish!)

1. Legend by Marie Lu

legend

Everyone who has read this series loves it. I look forward to getting to it.

2. The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

raven boys

Maggie Stiefvater writes some of the most unique books, and I always try to read what she writes.

3. Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

leviathan

The Uglies series by Westerfeld is one of my favorites, and Leviathan fascinates me.

4. Pretty Little Liars by Sara Shepard

pretty little

I love the show and the premise, so I assume the books will be very good.

5. The Selection by Kiera Cass

selection

This series is hugely popular with my students, and I am intrigued by the fairy tale-esque idea. (However, it does remind me of Princess Academy.)

Which series haven’t you started but hope to? 

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It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? From Picture Books to YA!

It’s Monday! What are you Reading? is a meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journeys. It is a great way to recap what you read and/or reviewed the previous week and to plan out your reading and reviews for the upcoming week. It’s also a great chance to see what others are reading right now…you just might discover the next “must-read” book!

Jen Vincent, of Teach Mentor Texts, and Kellee decided to give It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? a kidlit focus. If you read and review books in children’s literature – picture books, chapter books, middle grade novels, young adult novels, anything in the world of kidlit – join us! We love this meme and think you will, too.

We encourage everyone who participates to support the blogging community by visiting at least three of the other book bloggers that link up and leave comments for them.

Congratulations to
LINDA B.
for winning a copy of Julie Sternberg’s 
book Friendship Over!!!!

Last Week’s Posts

top ten tuesday deafo

Code Name 711--cover Double Vision front cover Double Vision The Alias Men hi-res cover

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Tuesday: Top Ten Places We Want To Visit (After Reading a Book)

Thursday: Guest Post “Five Ways to Bring MG Books into the Classroom” by Fleur Bradley, author of Double Vision and signed hardcover giveaway!

Giveaway open until Wednesday night!!!

**Click on any picture/link to view the post**

 Last Week’s Journeys

Kellee: Well, my ambitious goals of reading were defeated by another bout of ear infections and work for school. Such is life! I did get to finish one graphic novel I got from Top Shelf Productions on Netgalley called Maddy Kettle: The Adventure of the Thimble Witch which was a Coraline-esque tone/mood with a mix of Wizard of Oz and Miyazaki. The illustrations were a bit messy, but in a purposeful way that made everything feel urgent. I am looking forward to the sequel.

Trent and I did some rereading including revisiting David Smells by David Shannon and Are You My Mother? by P.D. Eastman. We also read Up Close by Gay Wegerif and Kiss, Kiss Good Night by Ken Kesbitt for the first time. Up Close is a unique way to talk about shapes, colors, and animals. I’m sure it will be a favorite. Kiss, Kiss is a sweet book that is a great bedtime story.

Ricki: Henry and Trent are both in the sick club. My poor guy has been sick all week, and we had to make a few trips to the doctor’s office. But we read! I finished a very well-written, comprehensive book called Holocaust: A Concise History by Doris L. Bergen. I read it in preparation for a Teaching the Holocaust Workshop I am attending this Wednesday. It is an integrated workshop for secondary history and English teachers.

Henry is obsessed with Goodnight Moon. When his father or I try to read him a different book, he fusses. The second we take out Goodnight Moon, his whole body relaxes and he giggles. So we read it every night. Meanwhile, I’ve been reading to him as he crawls around the room—he will only sit in my lap for Goodnight Moon. I want to expand his reading list a bit, so chasing him with a book is necessary. We enjoyed Brian Patten’s Can I Come Too? and Alex Latimer’s Pig and Small. Both were charming picture books. I also read an early chapter book to him, Worst Witch by Jill Murphy. I scheduled a blog post about Worst Witch for October 30—just in time for Halloween!

This Week’s Expeditions

Kellee: I am currently in the middle of two books: An Army of Frogs by Trevor Pryce and Joel Naftali in preparation for my NCTE panel with him on teaching graphic novels and This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki, and I hope to finish them both. I also want to revisit all of the Walden books. Additionally, I still have that huge library picture book pile LOOMING at me from the other side of the living room. I need to spend some time with them. Finally, I will be rereading the Matt Tavares biography picture books I read a couple of weeks ago as I am writing a teaching guide for them this week. BUSY week ahead!

Ricki: I just started Regina Brooks’ Writing Great Books for Young Adults. I am enjoying it thus far and will keep you posted when I have read more! I am still reading Rosenblatt’s book. It is great, but I had to finish my Holocaust book in preparation for the Workshop I described earlier. Can I pause the day and just read, please?

Upcoming Week’s Posts

top ten tuesday NF PB 2014

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Tuesday: Top Series We Want To Start

Wednesday: Nonfiction Graphic Novels List

Thursday: Bramble and Maggie blog tour with a giveaway and a Q&A with author Jessie Haas

Friday: Author Guest Post from Teresa Flavin, author of The Shadow Lantern

 So, what are you reading?

Link up below and go check out what everyone else is reading. Please support other bloggers by viewing and commenting on at least 3 other blogs. If you tweet about your Monday post, tag the tweet with #IMWAYR!

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Captain Underpants series
Author: Dav Pilkey
#1: Adventures of Captain Underpants published September 1st, 1997 by Scholastic, Inc.
#11: Captain Underpants and the Tyrannical Retaliation of the Turbo Toilet 2000 published August 26th, 2014 by Scholastic Inc.

Goodreads Summary #1: Pilkey plays with words and pictures, providing great entertainment. The story is immediately engaging – two fourth-grade boys who write comic books and love to pull pranks find themselves in big trouble. Mean Mr. Krupp, their principal, videotapes George and Harold setting up their stunts and threatens to expose them. The boys’ luck changes when they send for a 3-D Hypno-Ring and hypnotize Krupp, turning him into Captain Underpants, their own superhero creation.

Goodreads Summary #11: When the Incredible Robo-Plunger defeated the evil Turbo Toilet 2000, George and Harold thought their toilet troubles were over. Unfortunately, their porcelain problems were only beginning . . . Just when you thought it was safe to flush . . . The Turbo Toilet 2000 strikes back! The carnivorous commode known for devouring everything in its path has built up a real appetite . . . for REVENGE! Join Captain Underpants for another epic showdown of Wedgie Power vs. Potty Power as our tighty-whitey-wearing superhero GOES TO ELEVEN!

My Review and Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Ever since I started teaching I have had Captain Underpants fans in my classroom. Readers (especially boys though, like all books, it is not exclusive) love these books. When I started teaching intensive reading, my students loved that I read so much but were astonished that I had never read a Captain Underpants book. So, during the summer of 2012, I read the entire series that was out at the time.  And suprsingly, I am happy I did. I enjoyed the books so much, and I found many different ways that I could use in the series in classroom. As I read I not only enjoyed the stories (well most of them; the booger one was quite gross), but I kept notes on different ways each book could be a mentor text.  I know that students already love the books so I would love to be able to use them in the classroom. I think that part of what makes Pilkey’s humor work is that he never talks down to his reader. The humor is intelligent and witty, and he makes sure to have his books be as entertaining as possible to keep the reader’s attention.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Some of my favorite things that are addressed in the series are spelling, grammar, vocabulary, and puns. The spelling is not directly addressed; however, Harold and George misspell a lot of words and it would be good to use to talk about phonics and spelling.  Also, each book begins with an anagram which is great word play.  The grammar is sporadic only showing up in some books, but the vocabulary is in all of them.  Some vocabulary I found was billowing, narratively convenient, fizzled, improbability, jubilant, mock, scurried, and merciless and that is just in book 3! Also the puns in each book are really quite clever (check out p. 34 in #11 and any of the flip-o-ramas to see what I mean). Each book also has some great alliteration (#11, p. 29, 27, 208)- each title alone has alliteration in them. There are also allusions and onomatopoeias!

Additionally, I love the set up of the novels. They are a great mix of novel, graphic novel, comics, and picture books. It is a great transition between picture books and Diary of a Wimpy Kid. I especially like the flip-o-ramas. They are unique to the Captain Underpants books and I think it puts a great interactive and kinesthetic feel to the books.

One thing I do not understand is why these books are challenged. Yes, they have some potty humor. Yes, the adults aren’t the best representation of teachers. Yes, it is silly. But they are harmless and actually have some really great qualities to them.

Discussion Questions: In the first Captain Underpants, Harold and George brainstorm a superhero including his name and then create a comic based on their superhero. With a partner, brainstorm a name for a superhero and then complete a story to go along with your superhero. To expand it even more, complete a comic for your superhero.; In #11 novel, time travel plays a large part of in the plot. What event could you go back in time to try to change?; In some of the Captain Underpants books, there are grammar, convention, and spelling mistakes. Why do you think Dav Pilkey makes the choice to use incorrect grammar? What mistakes idd you find?; In #11, Harold and George end up being cloned (kind of). What would you do if there were two of you?

We Flagged (#11): 

Read These If You Loved: Diary of a Wimpy Kid series by Jeff Kinney, Big Nate series by Lincoln Peirce, Charlie Joe Jackson series by Tommy Greenwald, The Adventures of Ook & Gluk and Super Diaper Baby series by Dav Pilkey, Lunch Lady series by Jarrett Krosoczka, Frankie Pickle series by Eric Wight, Knights of the Lunch Table series by Frank Cammuso 

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Double Vision front coverCode Name 711--coverDouble Vision The Alias Men hi-res cover

Today, F.T. Bradley, author of the Double Vision trilogy, joins us with a wonderful post for middle grade teachers. Last year, Ricki reviewed (and loved) the second book in the series, Double Vision: Code Name 711We strongly encourage you to check out the entire series and are excited to announce that the third book, Double Vision: The Alias Men, went on sale this week! Please join us in welcoming F.T. Bradley to the blog today. She is offering a phenomenal giveaway to one lucky winner: all three books in the series—signed in hardcover!

 

   F.T. Bradley--photo

Five Ways to Bring MG into the Classroom

By F.T. Bradley

Reading is good for kids—we all know this. But trying to find ways to bring books into an already over-tasked classroom can be more than a challenge. Every year, I visit several school and library conventions, where I talk about ways to reach reluctant readers. Let’s face it: every classroom has a good portion of kids who would anything to avoid opening another book. So how do you bring middle-grade books into the classroom without boring your students? Here are a few ways to keep reading fresh in the classroom:

1. Find a Theme

Is your class or grade covering a certain period in history? Chances are, there are a host of MG titles that cover it. Math, science, art—authors love to use curriculum as a jumping off point in their fiction. When looking for titles, start by casting a wide net, including non-fiction (reluctant readers are easier to hook with those books), and graphic novels, too. For middle-school teachers, this can be an opportunity to collaborate with other teachers across subjects. A library visit, or a simple Google search can be a good start to find titles, but also look at book review sites like Goodreads, where reviewers often have top-ten lists of like-themed books. Author websites (like mine) sometimes have links and resources too, so don’t forget to browse the web.

2. Host a Book Club

You don’t have to be Oprah to host a book club. It can be small scale, like a class-wide joint read, or an after school club or even an elective for middle-schoolers. One school librarian told me she hosted a book club during lunch once a week—what a great idea! If you’re looking for a more challenging approach to group reading, try reading a non-fiction and fiction title on the same topic or historical period at the same time. How is the fiction title holding up against reality? Another fun challenge: reading a classic title like A Wrinkle in Time, and comparing it to its graphic novel counterpart. Or comparing the book with the movie—a great way to show that books connect to popular entertainment. To start your book club, look for more accessible options (so all kids will be interested, even those who read less), and increase the challenge as you go. 

3. Host a Review Blog or Website

Kids are already expected to write book reports—why not have them write reviews, too? This can be a school or classroom blog, where you post reviews written by kids. You can even post them to other review sites, or on your local bookstore website (if they’re interested—could be a great start to collaboration). Publishers (and sometimes authors) may even be willing to donate a copy of a book in exchange for a review, especially if you post reviews regularly. Just be sure to protect kids’ privacy as you post the reviews.

4. Rewrite the Story

Have you ever read a book with the class, only to be disappointed with the ending? Or maybe it wasn’t the ending you expected—or maybe it was too cliché? Rewrite the end with the class! This can be a great writing assignment—not only does this teach writing and editing skills, it shows kids that stories aren’t set in stone. (Note: this was not my idea, but shared by a Mississippi teacher and her class, who loved this exercise). Other ideas: writing short stories, like fan fiction, featuring the other characters in a book. How does the story change if written from a different perspective? Or: write letters as two characters in conflict with each other. If you’re working with a non-fiction title, consider having kids write fictional stories featuring some of the facts in the book. Or vice-versa: research any facts in the fiction title you’re reading—did the author stay close to the truth?

5. Host a (Virtual) Author Visit

Nothing makes a book, and the profession of writing, come to life more than a visit from a real author. Kids will never forget that day. To find available authors in your area, look at professional organizations’ websites, like the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. You can also ask your local library, or your independent bookstore—staff often know who lives locally, and who does great presentations. Don’t have access to local authors or funds to bring authors to your school? Try a Skype visit instead! These virtual visits are often free, and require nothing more than a computer/tablet with a webcam and a (free) Skype account. To find authors who Skype for free (like me), visit author Kate Messner’s website for a list. For non-fiction tie-ins, Skype in the Classroom offers lessons that run the gamut when it comes to curriculum, and even connects classrooms across the globe.   When I host the session on reaching reluctant readers (using these ideas and more) at library and teacher conventions, I get my best tips, book recommendations, and out-of-the-box ideas from teachers and librarians themselves.

How about you? Do you have any ideas or tips to share?

Follow along with the Double Vision: The Alias Men blog tour:

Oct. 6-10: The Secret Files of Fairday Morrow features Double Vision: The Alias Men with a review, author interview, plus a GIVEAWAY..!

Oct. 13: Linc hangs out at the great Erik’s blog, This Kid Reviews Books. Linc talks about spy techniques he picked up on his Pandora missions. And there’s another GIVEAWAY

Oct. 14: Double Vision: The Alias Men is released! Have a virtual party at the YA Sleuth blog…! And follow F.T. on Twitter @FTBradleyAuthor for more kid spy fun.

Oct. 16: F.T. Bradley gives you Five Ways to Bring MG into The Classroom at the Unleashing Readers blog, plus a GIVEAWAY.

Oct. 17: Linc is interviewed by Lizzy, Fairday and Marcus over at The Secret Files of Fairday Morrow blog. A fun post!

Oct. 20: Buried in Books lets F.T. Bradley talk about the Double Vision trilogy…

Oct. 20: Also this day, the fabulous Ms. Yingling reviews Double Vision: The Alias Men on her blog for Marvelous MG Monday…

Oct. 21: Another favorite blog, YA Book Nerd, hosts F.T. Bradley and the Double Vision trilogy, plus a GIVEAWAY

Oct. 21: F.T. Bradley hangs out at Sleuths, Spies and Alibis

Oct. 24: F.T. Bradley gives tips for parents of reluctant readers, Seven Ways to Get Your Kid to Read, at Pragmatic Mom’s blog, plus a GIVEAWAY!

Oct. 25: At the Nerdy Book Club, find F.T. Bradley’s top 10 books for reluctant readers…

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