Author Guest Post: “Home is Where the Heart is: Lessons for Writing About Place” by Margaret Finnegan, Author of Sunny Parker is Here to Stay

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“Home is Where the Heart is: Lessons for Writing About Placce”

If you’re going to tell a story, you’re going to need characters, and to understand those characters, you’ll need to understand the world where they exist. That world is often called the setting. But I don’t like that word. It seems passive—like the backdrop of a play. I like the word place, as in the place where you live. The place where you live is anything but passive. Houses settle. Schools hum. Mountains fall and rise, and then do it all over again. The fact is, the world is its own character. And in our favorite stories, the place—the setting, if you must—is a character. It grounds reality, propels action, and enlivens conflict and drama. Sometimes, it’s an impediment to the protagonist. Sometimes, it’s a savior.

For example, my new book Sunny Parker is Here to Stay takes place in an unnamed but affluent community. There is a country club up in the hills, and most people live in large houses. In fact, a lot of the smaller homes have recently been replaced by McMansions.

Can you picture it? Are you getting a sense of its character? Are you getting a sense of how place affects lives?

Okay. Smack in the middle of town there’s a wide boulevard, three lanes in each direction. Just off the boulevard stands The Del Mar Garden Apartments. It’s an affordable housing complex, a pretty decent one, with balconies and a grass-filled courtyard, but it’s a little neglected too. Sunny Parker, our protagonist, lives here.

This new detail complicates things, doesn’t it? Suddenly, this world seems a little less predictable and a little more fractured. But maybe it also seems more interesting, because like any good character it is multi-faceted, and that makes it fun. After all, you never really know how a multi-faceted character is going to act or what it’s going to do.

Helping writers and readers understand that world building is character building can not only help them grow as writers, but, with the right scaffolding, it can prompt them to think about their own world as more than a place for them to exist, but as an active presence in their own lives, one that they help shape, and one that shapes them in return.

With that in mind, here are two lessons about place—one for writers and one for readers.

Writing About Place

  1. Start with a blank piece of paper. Draw the world you know, in this case, the room/place where you sleep (although other spaces could be fun to play around with too). Be sure to label the furniture, windows, etc.
  2. Add sensory details (as words or pictures) so that you can better visualize what things look, sound, feel, smell, and maybe even taste like.
  3. Look at your picture. What contradictions might exist here? Maybe your side of your room is perfectly clean, for example, but your sister’s side looks (and smells) gross. Or maybe the contradiction is outside. Maybe inside the room/place it’s warm and dry, but outside it’s cold and wet.
  4. Now write about what you’ve drawn, especially the contradiction. Be sure to use those sensory details and other words that give a sense of life and action.
  5. Share your writing with a peer. Have them answer this question: What do you think this writing tells you about the person/people who live here?
  6. Reflect in writing for one minute more by answering this question: Did your peer say what you thought they might? If so, what? If not, did their response surprise you? Why?

Reading about place

  1. Start with a book. Identify passages that describe an important place in the book.
  2. Draw it out on a piece of paper. No need to be fancy, but do try to get those sensory words in there.
  3. Reflect in writing on your drawing. What is your picture trying to tell you about the personality of the place. For example, is it warm, cozy, scary? What clues does the personality of the place tell you about the people or animals in the story?

Published April 23rd, 2024 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers

About the Book: A determined girl spends the summer before middle school learning to stand up for her low-income community in this funny, fast-paced read just right for fans of Kelly Yang’s Front Desk.

Sunny Parker loves the Del Mar Garden Apartments, the affordable housing complex where she lives. And she especially loves her neighbors. From her best friend, Haley Michaels, to Mrs. Garcia and her two kids—developmentally disabled son AJ and bitter but big-hearted daughter Izzy—every resident has a story and a special place in Sunny’s heart.

Sunny never thought living at the Del Mar Garden Apartments made her different—until the city proposes turning an old, abandoned school into a new affordable housing complex and the backlash of her affluent neighborhood teaches Sunny the hard way that not everyone appreciates the community she calls home. Her dad, the Del Mar’s manager-slash-handyman, wants Sunny to lay low. But as hurtful rhetoric spreads and the city’s public hearing approaches, Sunny realizes that sometimes there’s too much at stake to stay silent.

With her friends behind her, Sunny Parker is determined to change the narrative—because she and her community are here to stay!

About the Author: Margaret Finnegan is the author of the Junior Library Guild Selections New Kids and UnderdogsWe Could Be Heroes, and Susie B. Won’t Back Down. Her other work has appeared in FamilyFun, the Los Angeles TimesSalon, and other publications. She lives in South Pasadena, California, where she enjoys spending time with her family, walking her dog, and baking really good chocolate cakes. Visit her online at MargaretFinnegan.com or on Instagram at FinneganBegin.

Thank you, Margaret, for sharing these setting reading and writing tips!

Student Voices: Jerry Craft’s Visit to Kellee’s Middle School

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I am so lucky because my principal began an initiative at my school where we get to have an author visit our school yearly (2023: Christina Diaz Gonzalez, 2022: Nathan Hale, 2020: Neal Shusterman, 2019: Jennifer A. Nielsen). The author sees all students in the school, so it is a great community literacy event for my school, and I love being able to bring this experience to all of my students each year!

  

This year, we hosted NEWBERY-WINNING AUTHOR Jerry Craft!
The visit was phenomenal and included 5 presentations for approximately 220 kids and book signings. It was all such an amazing experience!

Here are some reflections from my students after the visit. I asked them to think about what they learned, what they enjoyed, how they were impacted, or anything else they wanted to share:

  • Having an author visit yearly means a lot because it shows that our school cares for us.
  • I thought that the day was overall amazing. My biggest takeaway from the experience was that something you hate when you’re young could end up being your passion. This visit impacted me by making me feel like I could do anything. To me, these author visits make me feel like I can do anything with my life and it inspires me to read a lot more. This visit was important to me because I felt that Jerry Craft was really the person who could inspire people to read.
  • I am very glad that Jerry Craft was able to come to our school because he had a great presentation and he was good at educating all of us in a very fun and entertaining way. I think it was cool how Jerry Craft was able to draw a perfect circle for all of his 5 presentations! That was pretty cool, I can’t even draw a perfect one, lol. This visit impacted me because whenever the authors come to visit our school and tell us about their books, it always inspires me to be more creative and to be able to reach their level of creativity. Having authors come to visits means to me that I can look forward to skipping a class period to listen to an expert about all of their writing strategies, ideas, etc. This visit was important because it is good for us kids to be able to hear about all of the different authors and what they do to make each of their books different than the others.
  • My biggest take away, was that Jerry Craft said, that he didn’t read a lot as a kid, which was weird to me because I was always told that normally, authors read a lot to get inspiration, but I think is not always like that.

  • It showed me that you should always go into something saying you can do it because if you say you can’t you won’t be able to. You have to put your mind to it so you can do it.
  • Having an author visit yearly help is important and means a lot to me because I love seeing how different authors see different things in different ways and the challenges they face to become who they are in the present. It also helps me learn more about myself because taking some bits of what they say can reflect choices in my present and future and I appreciate the authors for coming and Mrs. Moye for getting these authors for us to enjoy and being caring for us.
  • The biggest takeaway I took from that visit is that no matter how much you prepare for something, you never know what you are going to end up as.
  • The visit impacted me by showing authors are people too they don’t just write books because they have to but because they are inspired.
  • I feel like hearing from an author yearly is just amazing and how they got from the beginning of their life to how they are right now.
  • I thought this visit was important because it helped me understand different people POVs and how their life as an author works.
  • I loved the way he talked about his goals and how his dreams never stop.
  • Having a yearly author visit to me means that I get to learn the creative processes of famous authors.

  • Learning about the work that goes into making books makes me feel more connected to the books that I read.
  • It feels special that we learn something from someone who created a successful book.
  • It made me realize I could do so much in life if i don’t give up and keeping working toward it.
  • I think my biggest takeaway was how, in the end, he kind of “taught” us how to draw different things and how even if you think you won’t be able to draw something good, you can if you believe you’ll be able to.
  • This visit was important because it showed me that even when people don’t think you’ll be able to do anything with your dream if you believe you can, you can show other people that they’re wrong.
  • As this will be my last year, I saw that over the years, all authors have said different things that impacted me throughout my life in middle school.
  • I really enjoyed the day. Mr. Craft was super nice and I found his presentation very interesting. My biggest takeaway was that even if you fail a lot, never give up and keep trying because you will succeed eventually. One thing that impacted me was how Mr. Craft said a lot about how you can do anything even if you think you can’t. Take the little steps that lead up to that goal. I like having a yearly author visitor because it helps me learn more about the people who wrote some of the books that I really liked and how they made them. I like seeing what problems they faced because I could somehow relate to them as well. This visit was important because meeting an author who tells you about their experiences writing their books is really impactful. Their stories and how they accomplished their goals was interesting and relatable to some.
  • My biggest takeaway was that not everything will be perfect, but sometimes it’s for the best.

Another teacher also shared her students’ responses to “What I liked the best was…”

  • How he explained that he went from being bad at writing books to being basically famous.
  • When he explained about his life and how was it. That you can do whatever you want if you propose it.
  • My favorite moment from the author’s visit was seeing his drawing skills live and seeing the Raina Telgemeier books in his presentation. I was surprised to learn that he was inspired by Raina Telgemeier who is also one of my favorite authors.
  • I thought it was interesting how he got the inspiration of real places of his life
  • When he talked about the awards he won as a book writer and how he did it.
  • I wanna read New Kid now because its very inspirational to others.
  • When Mr.Craft showed us an easier way you can draw and not just throw away messed up drawings into better drawing by seeing what you can make out of the messed up drawing.
  • When he started to talk about how he didn’t like to read but now he writes books and has to read for inspiration.
  • When jerry craft started drawing iconic media characters with mundane items. I want to learn more about shape theory.

BUT THERE WAS MORE!

The next day, Jerry Craft surprised my school by COMING BACK TO PLAY IN OUR STUDENT VS. STAFF BASKETBALL GAME!!!

This is more than I could have ever asked for!!!

As you can see from the comments and love, my students and I would highly recommend Jerry for a school visit!

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Educators’ Guide for The Partition Project by Saadia Faruqi

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The Partition Project
Author: Saadia Faruqi
Published: February 27th, 2024 by Quill Tree Books

Summary: When her grandmother comes off the airplane in Houston from Pakistan, Mahnoor knows that having Dadi move in is going to disrupt everything about her life. She doesn’t have time to be Dadi’s unofficial babysitter—her journalism teacher has announced that their big assignment will be to film a documentary, which feels more like storytelling than what Maha would call “journalism”.

As Dadi starts to settle into life in Houston and Maha scrambles for a subject for her documentary, the two of them start talking. About Dadi’s childhood in northern India—and about the Partition that forced her to leave her home and relocate to the newly created Pakistan. As details of Dadi’s life are revealed, Dadi’s personal story feels a lot more like the breaking news that Maha loves so much. And before she knows it, she has the subject of her documentary.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation and Discussion Questions: 

Please view and enjoy the educators’ guide I created for the author:

You can also access the educators’ guide here.

You can learn more about The Partition Project on Saadia Faruqi’s website.

Flagged Passage: View an excerpt HERE.

Recommended For: 

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Author Guest Post: “Be Kind to the Language” by Chris Lynch, Author of Walkin’ The Dog

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“Be Kind to the Language”

“Wee cliche.”

I have written those words in the margin of my students’ work so many times it is bordering on becoming a wee cliche itself (bordering on? I hear my students cough). To avoid that, I occasionally drop the “wee” part for variety. But the wee is in there for good reason; to call something cliche is among the most stinging critiques one can make of a writer. We are, after all, striving for originality at all times in our work, so to call cliche at somebody is tough stuff. That is one reason I added the wee in the first place—to soften the blow.

But there is another important reason, and that is the fact that I’m usually not flagging one of the big, whopping clichés like “It was a dark and stormy night,” known to writing students the world over. My vigilance is overwhelmingly applied to the small, apparently harmless, turns of phrase that pop up all over our writing without our even noticing. Yes, I include myself in this (boy, do I love editors and editing).

But they are not harmless, are they? As I am known to point out to my students as I attempt to talk them out of hating me: those very small over-common terms and phrases that infect our sentences are the equivalent of termites eating away at the foundations of our prose. They are insidious, and lethal. How many times do we read a piece and get to the end merely shrugging, thinking “That was okay, but it left no pleasant aftertaste”? Going back, you may well find that the language, the syntax, the rhythms (yes, there are cliches of pace and rhythm and theme) are so samey compared to what I have read before. If that is your own writing you are going over, look for all the easy choices, the phrases like broad daylight or a twinkle in his eye, that you almost certainly would not have fallen back on if you hadn’t already heard them a billion times in your life. As a dedicated mentor, I like to emphasize that having heard something a billion times is precisely why you do NOT want to repeat it. Even if it is not a literal repetition of something common, if you even feel like you have heard something before, then treat it as if you have. The joyful endgame here is that in almost every instance where I call out a wee cliche to my students, they come back at me with a fillip, a flipflop, a fandango that instantly stamps that sentence as theirs and nobody else’s.

Now, I am not a linguistic brute. I know these minor weakness of phrase are acceptable in everyday life. Social discourse is scarcely imaginable without them. But. Your creative writing is supposed to be your singularity. You get to lovingly labor over it and polish it until it fully represents you and your artful spirit. So, while you can say in conversation, it is what it is (if you MUST), once you have put it in writing you have expended five words to say exactly nothing. That is a fair description of what we aim to eliminate in a creative writing program.

And while we are at it, please stop using the word Dad as a pejorative? That hurts my feelings.

Publishing March 12th, 2024 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

About the Book: “Lynch is back and better, smarter, and funnier than ever.” —Jacqueline Woodson, National Book Award Winner

A boy learns how to be a friend from man’s best friend in this funny and moving middle grade novel about humans being able to change and dogs changing us from acclaimed author Chris Lynch.

In a family of strong personalities with very strong points of view, Louis is what his mother lovingly calls “the inactivist,” someone who’d rather kick back than stand out. He only hopes he can stay under the radar when he starts high school in the fall, his first experience with public school after years of homeschooling.

But when a favor for a neighbor and his stinky canine companion unexpectedly turns into a bustling dog-walking business, Louis finds himself meeting an unprecedented number of new friends—both human and canine. Agatha, a quippy and cagey girl his age always seems to be telling two truths and a lie. Cyrus, a few years his senior, promises he’s going to show Louis how to be a better person, whether Louis wants him to or not. And then there are the dogs: misbehaving border terriers, the four (possible stolen) sausage dogs, the rest of Louis’s charges, and a mysterious white beast who appears at a certain spot at the edge of the woods.

Dogs and human alike all seem to have something they want to teach Louis, including his menacing older brother who keeps turning up everywhere. But is Louis ready to learn the lesson he needs most: how to stop being a lone wolf and be part of a pack?

About the Author: Chris Lynch is the award–winning author of several highly acclaimed young adult novels, including Printz Honor Book FreewillIcemanGypsy Davey, and Shadow Boxer—all ALA Best Books for Young Adults—as well as Killing Time in Crystal CityLittle Blue LiesPiecesKill SwitchAngry Young Man, and Inexcusable, which was a National Book Award finalist and the recipient of six starred reviews. Chris is the author of middle grade novel Walkin’ the Dog. He holds an MA from the writing program at Emerson College. He teaches in the creative writing MFA program at Lesley University. He lives in Boston and in Scotland.

Thank you, Chris, for these pointers to focus students’, and our, writing!

Remember Us by Jacqueline Woodson

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Remember Us
Author: Jacqueline Woodson
Published October 10th, 2023 by Nancy Paulsen Books

Summary: National Book Award winner Jacqueline Woodson brings readers a powerful story that delves deeply into life’s burning questions about time and memory and what we take with us into the future.

It seems like Sage’s whole world is on fire the summer before she starts seventh grade. As house after house burns down, her Bushwick neighborhood gets referred to as “The Matchbox” in the local newspaper. And while Sage prefers to spend her time shooting hoops with the guys, she’s also still trying to figure out her place inside the circle of girls she’s known since childhood. A group that each day, feels further and further away from her. But it’s also the summer of Freddy, a new kid who truly gets Sage. Together, they reckon with the pain of missing the things that get left behind as time moves on, savor what’s good in the present, and buoy each other up in the face of destruction. And when the future comes, it is Sage’s memories of the past that show her the way forward. Remember Us speaks to the power of both letting go . . . and holding on.

About the Author: Jacqueline Woodson (www.jacquelinewoodson.com) received a 2023 Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, a 2020 MacArthur Fellowship, the 2020 Hans Christian Andersen Award, the 2018 Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, and the 2018 Children’s Literature Legacy Award. She was the 2018–2019 National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, and in 2015, she was named the Young People’s Poet Laureate by the Poetry Foundation. She received the 2014 National Book Award for her New York Times bestselling memoir Brown Girl Dreaming, which was also a recipient of the Coretta Scott King Award, a Newbery Honor, the NAACP Image Award, and a Sibert Honor. She wrote the adult books Red at the Bone, a New York Times bestseller, and Another Brooklyn, a 2016 National Book Award finalist. Born in Columbus, Ohio, Jacqueline grew up in Greenville, South Carolina, and Brooklyn, New York, and graduated from college with a B.A. in English. She is the author of dozens of award-winning books for young adults, middle graders, and children; among her many accolades, she is a four-time Newbery Honor winner, a four-time National Book Award finalist, and a three-time Coretta Scott King Award winner. Her books include Coretta Scott King Award and NAACP Image Award winner Before the Ever After; New York Times bestsellers The Day You Begin and Harbor MeThe Other Side, Caldecott Honor book Coming On Home Soon; Newbery Honor winners FeathersShow Way, and After Tupac and D FosterMiracle’s Boys, which received the LA Times Book Prize and the Coretta Scott King Award; and Each Kindness, which won the Jane Addams Children’s Book Award. Jacqueline is also a recipient of the Margaret A. Edwards Award for lifetime achievement for her contributions to young adult literature. She lives with her family in Brooklyn, New York.

Review: Remember Us may be a historical fiction book, taking place in the 1970s, but Sage’s story is timeless. In the book, you have so many layers to look at. First, Woodson’s vignettes are beautifully crafted which makes the book such a wonderful read. Then you have the layer of the fires in Sage’s neighborhood and fire in her own life. There is also her love of basketball, and her amazing talent, as well as the questioning about her identity this leads to. Finally, it is a story of family and friends with Sage’s mom and Freddy playing star roles. All of this leads to a multi-layered novel that is a truthful look at growing up and remembering the past.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation and Discussion Questions: Check out this Educator’s Guide from Penguin Random House!

Flagged Passage: 

After the year of fire
vines rise up
through the rest of our lives
of smoke
of flame
of memory.
As if to say
We’re still here.
As if to say
Remember us.

1

The moon is bright tonight. And full. Hanging low above the house across the street where an orange curtain blows in and out of my neighbors’ window. Out and in. And past the curtain there’s the golden light of their living room lamps. Beyond that, there is the pulsing blue of their tele­vision screen. I see this all now. I see a world continuing.

And in the orange and gold and blue I’m reminded again of the year when sirens screamed through my old neighborhood and smoke always seemed to be billowing. Somewhere.

That year, from the moment we stepped out of our houses in the morning till late into the night, we heard the sirens. Down Knickerbocker. Up Madison. Across Cornelia. Both ways on Gates Avenue. Down Ridgewood Place. Rounding the corners of Putnam, Wilson, Evergreen . . .

Evergreen. Sometimes a word comes to you after time has passed. And it catches you off guard. Evergreen. The name of a family of trees. And the name of a block in Brooklyn. Evergreen. Another way of saying forever.

That year, nothing felt evergreen.

Palmetto. A word that has never left me. A word that in my mind is evergreen. Palmetto. The name for both a stunning tree and an oversize cockroach. Palmetto was also the name of a street in my old neighborhood. And that year, Palmetto Street was burning.

2

That was the year when, one by one, the buildings on Palmetto melted into a mass of rock and ash and crumbled plaster until just a few walls were left standing. Walls that we threw our balls against and chased each other around. And at the end of the day, when we were too tired to play anymore, they were the walls we simply sat down by and pressed our backs into, staring out over a block that was already, even as we stared at it with our lips slightly parted and our hands shielding the last of the sun from our eyes, almost gone.

We said Well, nothing lasts for always, right?

We said One day even the whole earth will disappear.

We were just some kids making believe we understood.

But we didn’t. Not yet.

We didn’t understand the fires. Or life. Or the world.

But we knew that neighborhood was our world.

And we knew . . . our world was burning.

Read This If You Love: Jacqueline Woodson’s books such as brown girl dreaming and Harbor MeTroublemaker by John Cho, The Red Umbrella by Christina Diaz Gonzalez, The Unsung Hero of Birdsong USA by Brenda Woods

Recommended For: 

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**Thank you to Penguin Young Readers for providing a copy for review!**

Author Guest Post: “Unveiling Memories and Creativity” by Will Hillenbrand, Author of Voices in the Hollow

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“Unveiling Memories and Creativity”

I invite you to join me on a deeply personal journey into the heart of my childhood memories through the pages of The Voice in the Hollow. Here, I’ll share how this narrative became a cherished part of my life and shaped my understanding of memory, creativity, and the power of sharing our most cherished stories.

Retracing my steps

The Voice in the Hollow is more than just a book; it’s a portal to my past. I’m transported back to the footpath of the Old Hollow, a place that once held so much mystery and wonder for me. It’s a story that captures the essence of my childhood.

Recreating Childhood Experiences

One of the most exciting aspects of crafting The Voice in the Hollow was the opportunity to recreate the sensory experiences that defined that unforgettable adventure. The scent of mothballs in the frozen air, the crunch of snow underfoot, the chill that sent shivers down my spine – these details were not just written words but memories brought to life.

As I wrote and illustrated, I was determined to make readers feel right there with me, stepping in my footprints through the snow, experiencing the same wonder and mystery that captivated me many years ago. This journey was not just about storytelling but about sharing a piece of my soul.

Guarding My Treasure

For decades, The Voice in the Hollow remained a secret, known only to me. It was a mystery I kept hidden, waiting and wondering if I should ever share it with the world. I always felt a deep connection to this story. When I reached middle age, I made, with great care, the decision to retell it to my wife. This retelling unlocked a more profound passage into the story’s mystery. Still, I wondered how I could adequately visualize this for young readers.

Peeling Back the Layers of Creativity

Now, let’s dive into the creative process behind this narrative. Crafting a story like The Voice in the Hollow is not just about putting words on paper; it’s about building a world, populating it with characters like Hubert Cumberbun, and weaving emotions into the fabric of the narrative and landscape.

I wanted to create a story that resonated with readers and inspired them to explore their VOICE as a storyteller (as Hubert has) and the acceptance of mystery as an essential fabric of our lives.

Illustrations: Adding Depth to the Narrative

One of the most exciting aspects of The Voice in the Hollow is the collaboration between storytelling and illustration. The visuals in the book aren’t just there for decoration; they are an integral part of the storytelling experience. Each illustration is a brushstroke in the canvas of memory, capturing the essence of the narrative and offering readers a visual connection to the story’s world.

As an author/ illustrator, I could blur the lines between words and pictures. I don’t understand it; I can’t describe it, yet another mystery—the magic of the picture book.

Memory and Transformation

At its core, The Voice in the Hollow explores the profound connections between memory, creativity, and transformation. It’s a story that reminds us of the enduring influence of childhood experiences on our adult lives. The adventures and encounters of our youth continue to shape our choices and perspectives, no matter how many years have passed.

By sharing this story, I inspire others to reflect on their childhood memories and find THE VOICE for the stories that have shaped them. Our past experiences can influence our present and future, no matter how distant.

In Conclusion

As you journey into the heart of “The Voice in the Hollow,” I want to express my gratitude for allowing me to share this deeply personal narrative with you. It’s a story that has been guarded and cherished for decades, and I’m thrilled to bring it into print finally.

My story behind this story has given you a glimpse into the world of memory, creativity, and storytelling. May it inspire you to explore your memories and creative passions and appreciate the stories that have shaped your life. “The Voice in the Hollow” is a testament to the enduring power of childhood experiences and the transformative potential of sharing our most cherished stories. Thank you for joining me on the Hollow, and I look forward to sharing more stories with you in the future.

Published October 3rd, 2023 by Holiday House

About the Book: A young mouse’s shortcut home turns into a fantastical journey guided by a mysterious guardian in this wintery tale with a breath-taking double gatefold surprise.

When a blizzard closes the library early, Hubert decides to take a shortcut home through the spooky Hollow. Just as Hubert is gathering his nerve to press on, another mouse appears and offers to take his hand.

Together they journey through the snow, an ominous forest, over fallen trees traversing ravines, and over the mountains. Hidden in the terrain are scenes that evoke myths of the origins of Earth’s mysterious features and nature’s erratic behavior. In a stunning double gatefold sleeping bears spring to life, setting off a landslide and sending Hubert and his guardian running.

Just as Hubert is reaching his destination he turns to find his guide gone. Hubert races home to tell his family about his wild adventure through the Hollow.

In this winter tale, with a sparse text  Will Hillenbrand crafts a new family favorite for settling down on snowy nights.

A Kirkus Reviews Best Picture Book of the Year

Thank you, Will, for taking us on this journey and giving us insight into your process that we can share with our readers!

Author Guest Post: “3 Activities to Help Children Meet Challenges Successfully” by Elizabeth Godley, Author of Rock, Scissors, Paperbag

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3 Activities to Help Children Meet Challenges Successfully

As children grow, they will face many challenges. Some of these challenges will be small, like learning to tie their shoes, while others will be larger, like making new friends or dealing with a bully. It is important for kids to learn how to meet challenges successfully so that they can overcome them and grow as individuals.

Activity 1: Brainstorming Challenges

The first activity is to brainstorm a list of challenges that children might face. This can be done as a whole class activity or in small groups. Once the list is complete, have students share their thoughts on how they might meet each challenge.

Activity 2: Role-Playing

The second activity is to role-play different challenges. This can be done in small groups or as a whole class. Have your students choose a challenge from the list and act out how they might meet it. After each role-play, have the group discuss what went well and what could be improved.

Activity 3: Journaling

The third activity is to journal about challenges. Have your students write about a challenge they have faced and how they met it. Encourage them to be honest about their feelings and to reflect on what they learned from the experience.

These are just a few ideas for activities that can help children learn how to meet challenges successfully. By providing our students with opportunities to practice and reflect, we can help them develop the skills they need to overcome any challenge they may face.

Published November 8th, 2023 by Nobody’s Banana Publishing

About the Book: Rock, Scissors, and Paperbag are the bestest of friends! Paperbag is afraid of everything, Rock is a talented musician, and Scissors is an excellent Orange Ball player. After the school bullies, The Bucket Kids, steal Scissors’ fake orange-ball, the kids decide to get back at the bullies. What if they could get a real orange-ball from The Great Orange Tree? That would show The Bucket Kids!

Recalling the local magical legend, they embark on a fantastic adventure to find The Great Orange Tree. However, while solving the riddle within the ancient map, they encounter a cave monster, a tornado of rapping cooties, and the horrid Land of Smells. How will they face each challenge? Will they end up back home? Will they get a real orange-ball? And if they do, will they share it?

Throughout their adventure, Rock gains confidence, Paperbag conquers his fears, and Scissors makes peace with being imperfect. Best Buds!

Winner of the 2023 Speak Up Talk Radio International Firebird Book Award, Rock, Scissors, Paperbag is a spellbinding tale of friendship, fantasy, and adventure. A perfect book to be shared and treasured.

About the Author: Hi! I’m Elizabeth Godley. I have been working with children for almost 20 years as a teacher, caretaker, mentor, fairy, clown, and friend. I am a kid magnet. Seriously at school, I cannot walk across the playground without at least 3 kids saying “Hi, Ms. Godley!”, showing me a cool stick they found, and/or asking “Are you on TikTok?” This is my second children’s book and my first kid’s chapter book. Writing books for children is a long-held dream of mine! You are helping it become a reality.

Why do I write? I want to add joy to children’s lives in a way that makes them feel connected and not alone. Kids are so “plugged in” nowadays and isolated. That is why I wanted to write Rock, Scissors, Paperbag. I want to encourage kids to make friends, go on make-believe adventures, get dirty, stand up to the bully, accidentally scrape their knees, and make some innocent mischief. In. Real. Life. Technology is amazing, but it can’t beat the smell of a library book or the weight of a water balloon in your hand.

Thank you, Elizabeth, for giving educators these tools to help their students through challenges!