“Be Careful or You Might Learn Something…”
I always hated summer reading lists as a kid. Teachers gave us a list of super-educational, historically accurate, classic books of literary significance to read over the summer so we could either write a book report or pass a test when we got back to school in September.
For me, this was the literary equivalent of brussels sprouts.
I actually liked to read in the summer. The trouble was, every time I picked up a book I actually wanted to read, I’d think to myself, “Ugh. I need to read those awful school books first.” I put off reading those books until later, so I ended up reading very little. Toward the end of the summer, I forced myself to read the brussels sprouts books, but really didn’t get much out of the experience.
It’s understandable that teachers want kids to learn from the books they read, but forcing kids to read Johnny Tremain isn’t likely to get them all fired up about reading. I remember reading Johnny Tremain at some point, but I remember precious little about the book.
Know what I do remember? My fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Garrett, reading to us for a few minutes at the end of the school day. I remember her reading Lenny Kendall, Smart Aleck, Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, and Superfudge. The books were uproariously funny, and I can clearly remember the sound of Mrs. Garrett’s voice; the inflection, the enthusiasm, the fun. I eagerly went to the library and got some of those books and reread them on my own.
A few years ago, I went to a wonderful used bookstore called Books With a Past. I asked if they had Lenny Kendall, Smart Aleck so I could read it to my kids. The lady in the store said she hadn’t heard of the book, but she put me on the list in case it ever turned up. Then I went to the barbecue restaurant next door with my kids. A few minutes later, the bookstore lady showed up there. She must have heard us mention where we were headed. Anyway, she showed up with Lenny Kendall in tow. She found it after all!
We took the book home and I happily read it aloud to my kids. It was such a wonderful experience. It brought back such great memories and I loved hearing my kids laugh.
I am a passionate writer who happens to be married a to a man who is dyslexic. He hates to read because it’s hard for him, and, try as I might, I’ve been unsuccessful at getting my kids to love reading. I’ve written several grown-up books which they are not allowed to read, but I’ve written two middle-grade ones that are appropriate for them. It’s been tough even to get them to crack those books!
I recently published a middle-grade book about baseball entitled The Joyville Sweat Sox. (as in, there is no mud in Joyville. Baseball fans will get that…) I dedicated the book to my son, Noah, who plays Little League. I didn’t have to force him to read that one because 1. Mommy wrote it and, 2. It’s about baseball. Noah is a good-hearted kid who would tell me he loved it no matter what, so it was hard to tell if he really liked it. Then one day I came home from work and heard him laughing in the other room. He didn’t know I was home yet, so I knew his reaction was real. Sure enough, he was reading my book and though it was really funny. Is there any higher praise than that?
The Joyville Sweat Sox is about a young woman who is forced to coach a baseball team full of clueless kids as punishment for breaking her town’s No Anger law. It’s won’t be easy to teach them the rules of the game without losing her temper… The book does have some teachable information in it, I suppose. Okay, it would mainly be for physical education teachers… Kids who know how to play baseball will giggle at the players in the book who are a bit slow on the uptake to learn, and kids who are unfamiliar with the sport will easily learn it as the poor coach teaches her hapless players what to do. However, the overarching lesson can be summed up when Konnie, the coach with anger management issues says, “Sometimes mean people aren’t mean. Sometimes they’re just sad.”
Konnie would know. Her anger and bitterness started when her father died, the same year that a mean guy stole baseball from the town of Joyville. Some of her happiest memories were of her times at the ballpark with her dad, and the idea that his last summer on earth was spent without baseball just hurts too much. At first, Konnie is annoyed beyond belief by these crazy kids she’s suddenly saddled with. Then she comes to care deeply for her little guys as she is able to teach them to love the game that meant so much to her and her father. At the end, the judge who sentenced her for getting mad in the first place actually comes to her defense for getting angry. This time, she got mad and risked severe punishment by standing up for her little players. The judge tells her that he’s proud of her, and that he saw a lot of her father in her that day.
My favorite type of book to write – and to read – is one that has both humor and heart. Joyville is funny (ask my son!) and definitely has heart. It made both my critique partner and my daughter cry – in a good way!
Kids want to be entertained as much as we want them to be educated. My philosophy is to encourage them to read something fun and hope they might learn a thing or two along the way.
About the Book: It’s against the law to get mad in Joyville. Will Konnie Mack be able to coach a ragtag team of kids who are clueless about baseball without completely losing her cool?
Twenty-one-year-old Konnie has broken the No Anger law for the third time. She has two choices for punishment: coach Joyville’s Little League baseball team for the summer, or spend five years in jail.
Konnie used to be the best baseball player in town, but she hasn’t played the game she loves since she was sixteen. That was the year Bobby Hearsay stole Joyville’s team in the middle of the night. It was also the year her father died.
The current team includes the likes of Clueless Joe Jackson, Joltin’ Joanna Demargio, and Carl Repkin, Jr. Keeping her temper in check with these kids won’t be easy, and it’s going to be nearly impossible for this bunch to win any games. But Konnie has no choice. Getting mad will land her in the slammer, and her punishment for losing will be far worse than any jail sentence. She will be banished from playing baseball forever….
The Joyville Sweat Sox is available here – http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00YXUD7FI
About the Author: Linda Fausnet is the author of several books, mostly adult fiction. She has also written numerous screenplays of various genres. Two of her scripts have been optioned by production companies in Los Angeles; Mega Films, Inc. and Runaway Productions. Her screenplay, Queen Henry, was a Finalist in the national Progress Writers Competition. Linda runs an educational and promotional website for indie writers at www.wannabepride.com
Twitter – @lindafausnet
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We very much agree–finding the right book and doing summer reading right are both so important!
Thank you to Linda for this post!