Author Guest Post: “So What You’re Really Saying Is…” by Adam Borba, Author of This Again

Share

“So What You’re Really Saying Is…”

By the end of the sixth grade, most students have been introduced to the concept of a thesis statement by their English teachers. That infamous sentence that typically appears in the first paragraph of an essay declaring the main point or purpose of the paper in a concise summary. It gives a paper direction and informs readers what the author intends to discuss. For years, I dreaded them. I found thesis statements daunting and believed their prescriptive nature took the fun and art out of writing and made it more formal, like science or math (never my strong suits). But while I loathed thesis statements as a kid, as a storyteller, I love a strong, clear theme. The irony is thesis statements and themes are essentially the same—it’s just a successful rebrand. Like Blue Ribbon Sports changing its name to Nike or a restaurant deciding their menu’s underwhelming fettuccini alfredo is actually amazing cacio e pepe. Let me explain!

A theme (or message) is the essence of a story—what it’s all about. Themes tend to be strongest when they’re simple, clear, and universal, so they’re relatable to everyone. A single sentence, often only a few words. They’re not always a line that’s written verbatim (or spoken in a movie) and rarely are themes stated definitively up front, but even buried in subtext all the scenes in a story with a strong thematic build to that idea. Themes are something that I learned to appreciate while developing and producing movies, which I’ve done for over twenty years. Early in my career, I discovered having a clear theme tended to be one of the things that allowed an audience (or readers) to have a strong emotional connection with a story.

When I’m beginning a movie or writing a book, one of the early goals I have is to get to that one sentence message. Again, preferably something universal. And it’s always something that my colleagues, the director, and the film’s writers have agreed to. A few examples: In Pete’s Dragon it was “Everyone belongs somewhere.” In Timmy Failure it was “It’s okay to be different.” In Peter Pan & Wendy it was “Everyone grows up at their own pace,” In A Wrinkle in Time it was “Everyone is deserving of love.”

When I’m writing, I try to figure out the theme before I begin a rough draft, so I can tie it to narrative and character as much as possible, because ideally, it’s the theme that the protagonist learns that ultimately allows them to get out of trouble and succeed in the end.

My first book, The Midnight Brigade, is about a shy boy named Carl with a big heart who has trouble sharing how he feels. The book is set in Pittsburgh and one night Carl finds a grumpy troll named Frank living under one of the city’s four hundred bridges. Carl decides to keep the troll a secret with his friends which leads to all kinds of trouble. Ultimately, the troll teaches Carl to be bold (the story’s theme), which sets the kid on a stronger path.

In my novel Outside Nowhere, the main character, Parker Kelbrook is an extrovert. He’s funny, and charming, and talks a lot. He’s a Ferris Bueller-type, the opposite of Carl and he doesn’t take life seriously. When the story begins, Parker is more concerned about himself than other people. So, as a character, he’s got a lot of room to grow. The kid loves pulling pranks, and in the opening scene, he pulls one that goes too far, pouring sixty gallons of fruit punch mix into a community pool. Afterwards, his dad sends him halfway across the country to work on a farm in the middle of nowhere.

The farm has three rules:

  1. Do your chores
  2. Stay out of the farmhouse
  3. Don’t eat the crops

The other kids on the farm are roll up your sleeves, get the work-done-types. So, Parker doesn’t fit in. They don’t find him charming or funny because he’s not getting his chores done and he’s making more work for everyone else.

Parker needs learn how to turn things around for himself. And when he does, magical and mysterious events begin happening. For instance, one morning he wakes to discover a cow on the roof of a barn, which makes Parker realize that things on this farm aren’t as they appear. Eventually, when Parker accepts the story’s theme that it’s less important how you start something, and more important how you finish, he sets off on a quest to right his wrongs.

My new novel, This Again, is in the spirit of Back to the Future or Groundhog Day. It’s about an anxious, perfectionist kid named Noah who’s running for class president and has no shot of winning, until one day in a bowling alley he runs into a kid who looks exactly like him. The double explains that he’s Noah from nine days in the future and has come back in time to help Noah make all of his dreams come true. As long as Noah does everything he tells him to do no matter how silly and ridiculous it sounds.

This Again is about the funny misadventures of a kid who attempts to orchestrate the perfect day with the help of his future self and a time machine. It’s a story about fate and free will. But more importantly, it’s a book about a kid wrestling with anxiety and perfectionism, learning to accept that life doesn’t always go according to plan and that he’s good enough. And once again, the book is driven by a universal theme: No one can do everything. Much of Noah’s anxiety comes from comparing himself to others (family, friends, classmates), a fear of failure, and trying to do too much at once. Along the way he learns the importance of balance, and that sometimes people appear to have their lives more under control than they actually do. And by learning and accepting this theme, Noah just might have a shot to win in the end.

So, readers can go on these fun rides and take away the same lessons that the protagonists learn, because the themes are universal, but also, they’re so baked into the story, that they’re one and the same. Like the importance of a strong thesis statement that my wonderfully patient, darn-near saintly English teachers growing up attempted to instill on me. And while I didn’t appreciate thesis statements when I was younger, I’ve realized how important it is to define the core of a piece, whether it’s in a film or a book. It not only helps you as a writer to tell a compelling story, but helps readers connect with the material. The next time you read or watch something that you love, beyond the plot and in the subtext, take a step back and ask yourself what the creator was really trying to say. Chances are, it’ll be a message that resonates with you.

Published April 16th, 2024 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

About the Book: Noah Nicholson focuses on the could’ve-beens, should’ve-beens and wish-I-dids in his life. Still, there’s plenty to be grateful for— he gets solid grades, he has a nice group of friends, and he’s becoming closer with Lucy Martinez (who he’s had a crush on since the second grade). Most excitingly, he might have a chance to be voted class president next week.

But one day, Noah sees the oddest thing—he sees himself. It turns out, this lookalike is Noah from the future, and he’s here to make sure that Present-Day Noah snags the class president spot. It’s up to the two of them to make sure everything goes off without a hitch, but fate just might have other plans…

Perfect for fans of Finn and the Intergalactic Lunchbox and Operation Do-OverThis Again? takes readers on an incredible journey through time, mind, and middle school.

About the Author: ADAM BORBA is a writer and filmmaker from California who helps develop and produce movies for Walt Disney Studios. He is the author of The Midnight Brigade and Outside Nowhere.

Thank you, Adam, for tying together lessons and reality!

Sofia’s Kids’ Corner: A Few Books that I Read Recently that were Amazing!

Share

Sofia is a 12-year-old brilliant reader who aspires to be a book reviewer. Since she was 8 years old, on select Saturdays, Sofia shares her favorite books with other kids! She is one of the most well-read middle schoolers that we know, so she is highly qualified for this role!


Dear readers,

Hi, my name is Sofia and today I am bringing to you a list of a couple of books that I have read recently that were amazing! The reason why I am not doing individual book reviews for all of these is because I have read a lot of good books recently and just wanted to cover all of them in one review. Also, fun fact, all of the books on this list other than Thieves Gambit are told from two different perspectives! These are all young adult books!

Thieves Gambit by Kayvion Lewis

This is a spectacular book about 17 year old Ross Quest who is a thief. She lives in the Bahamas with her family that is the biggest thieving bloodline in North America. She eventually makes a plan to run away because she is unhappy but when that falls through, she finds herself entering the Thieves Gambit, a big competition with a couple other young thieves like herself including her arch-enemy. I highly enjoyed this book full of twists and turns, with nobody she feels she can trust, and a little bit of romance. I liked this book because of the thriller aspect of it and I just felt like the story flowed nicely. One of my book loving friends even saw me reading this and commented on how good it was! I loved this and definitely can’t wait for the second book, coming out in November of 2024. 

Happily Ever Island by Crystal Cestari

Oh, my gosh! I just finished reading this book and let me tell you, it was enchanting (while still being realistic fiction)! Happily Ever Island is one of those feel good books which just makes you feel so happy while reading it. It has lovable and relatable characters and the storyline is oh so fun!  This book is about Madison and Lanie, two friends with completely different personalities. It alternates perspectives by the way which I find pretty fun! Madison is the playful extrovert and Lanie is the academic introvert. Unlikely friends, am I right! Anyway, Madison is a hardcore Disney adult/teen and when the opportunity arises to visit Disney’s newest attraction (Happily Ever Island), she jumps at the chance to enter the lottery (to win the tickets) with her current girlfriend. But, soon afterwards, her girlfriend dumps her and right afterwards she gets the call, she is going to Happily Ever Island! She chooses Lanie to go with her, who has not seen very many Disney movies but is her best friend. They are both excited for the trip of a lifetime and will share many things along the way. 

The Statistical Probability of Falling in Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith

Holy guacamole, this is a heart twisting story! The Statistical Probability of Falling in Love at First Sight first caught my attention because I was looking for a relatively quick read and the title is really intriguing! There is also a Netflix movie (called Love at First Sight) interpretation which I have definitely added to my “To Watch” list! Anyway, this remarkable tale starts at JFK airport, with 17 year old Hadley having missed the flight that she didn’t really want to go on anyway. Why, you might ask and that is because she is flying to her dad’s wedding to a lady she hasn’t even met! So she rebooks her flight, unwillingly, and waits for the next plane, leaving in a couple of hours. While in the squished waiting area, she meets a boy named Oliver who happens to be in her row on the plane! They talk in the waiting area and on the plane and promise to see each other after going through immigrations but they lose track of each other. Hadley is distraught and spends the next day finding him and loses hope but when they meet again, she will realize her life isn’t that bad. 

My Mechanical Romance by Alexene Farol Follmuth

Wow, was this interesting! I first picked this book up from my local library’s bookshelf because of the cover, the colors are so cute! Then, when I learned one of the main characters was a young woman in STEM, I knew I had to read it! This is also a double perspective book so that was pretty cool, to see what was going on in both of their lives. Bel is a girl who doesn’t like thinking about her future. Teo seemingly has it all planned out. He is an overachiever, taking all AP classes while Bel is just “normal” until a teacher sees her creativity in engineering and VERY strongly encourages her to join the robotics club. This is where she meets Teo and they start off well with her making the team but they soon start to butt heads. With them staying after school together and building a robot, they realize they are not as incompatible as they thought. 

This Day Changes Everything by Edward Underhill

I’m speechless, the way that Edward Underhill wrote this book will never cease to amaze me! This Day Changes Everything is a rom-com about two young people who are finding their queer place in this world. They are both part of different marching bands that are going to compete at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade that come from like the middle of nowhere. A little bit of backstory for each of them: Amy is a gay girl who is in love with her best friend Kat. Kat doesn’t know yet but Amy is planning to tell her in New York, where their favorite book is set. Leo is a transgender boy who has already come out to his parents and sister but they won’t let him come out to their extended family. Back to the plot, Leo and Amy both miss their train to the tour they are on for their marching band and decide to spend the day together, finding souvenirs to help Amy confess her love to Kat but along the way Amy realizes that she is slowly falling in love with the random boy she just met. 

**Thanks so much, Sofia! We loved these books, too!**

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #IMWAYR 4/29/24

Share

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?
For readers of all ages

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is a weekly blog hop we host which focuses on sharing what we’re reading. This Kid Lit version of IMWAYR focuses primarily on books marketed for kids and teens, but books for readers of all ages are shared. We love this community and how it offers opportunities to share and recommend books with each other.

The original IMWAYR, with an adult literature focus, was started by Sheila at Book Journeys and is now hosted by Kathryn at The Book Date. The Kid Lit IMWAYR was co-created by Kellee & Jen at Teach Mentor Texts.

We encourage you to write your own post sharing what you’re reading, link up below, leave a comment, and support other IMWAYR bloggers by visiting and commenting on at least three of the other linked blogs.

Happy reading!

Bold_line

Tuesday: Educators’ Guide for Sunny G’s Series of Rash Decisions by Navdeep Singh Dhillon

Sunday: Author Guest Post: “Social Emotional Learning with Picture Books” by Darcy Pattison, Author of BE STRONG: The Rise of Beloved Public Art Sculptor, Nancy Schön

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

Bold_line

Kellee

It is my week off from IMWAYR, but you can learn more about any of the books I’ve been reading by checking out my read bookshelf on Goodreads.

Ricki

I’ve fallen into the adult cult novel world for a bit. I just finished Sarah J. Maas’ second book in the Court series: A Court of Mist and Fury. I loved reading it. And another Emily Henry book came out this week, Funny Story, so of course I read it. It’s Emily Henry, so I loved it, as expected. 🙂

Bold_line

Thursday: Sofia’s Kids’ Corner: A Few Books that I Read Recently that were Amazing!

Sunday: Author Guest Post: “So What You’re Really Saying Is…” by Adam Borba, Author of This Again

Bold_line

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!

 Signature andRickiSig

Author Guest Post: “Social Emotional Learning with Picture Books” by Darcy Pattison, Author of BE STRONG: The Rise of Beloved Public Art Sculptor, Nancy Schön

Share

“Social Emotional Learning with Picture Books”

Educators know the importance of addressing the social and emotional learning of kids in their classrooms. The Casel framework has become a popular way to discuss the skills. It begins with a breakdown of the child’s social situation: classroom, schools, with family/caregivers, and communities. Within each level, it looks at a child’s social awareness, relationship skills, responsible decision making, self-awareness, and self- management. Here are recent picture books that address these social and emotional skills.

Social Awareness: The abilities to understand the perspectives of and empathize with others, including those from diverse backgrounds, cultures, and contexts. 


Barrio Rising: The Protest that Built Chicano Park, by María Dolores Águila,  Magdalena Mora  (June, 2024)

Which would you want in your neighborhood, a city park or a police station? When the residents of San Diego’s Chicane neighborhood Barrio Logan discovered a police station is being built they decide to speak out. When you try to make your voices heard, you must reach for understanding between diverse groups and cultures. Follow a young activist who must connect her perspective to the wider perspectives to accomplish her goals for her neighborhood.

Relationship Skills: The abilities to establish and maintain healthy and supportive relationships and to effectively navigate settings with diverse individuals and groups


Luli and the Language of Tea written by Andrea Wang and illustrated by Hyewon Yum (2022)

Tea has the power to unite and build relationships. Or at least that’s what a Chinese child Luli discovers. When she is left in a playroom with other multilingual kids, she calls out “Cha!” When the kids realize that she is offering them a drink of tea, they each respond with their own language’s word for tea. Luli’s willingness to share enriches the relationships in the playroom.

Responsible Decision Making: The abilities to make caring and constructive choices about personal behavior and social interactions across diverse situations. 


The Little Butterfly That Could by Ross Curach (2021)

After a hard hatching from its chrysalis, the butterfly faces a huge new challenge: migration.

“200 MILES? How am I supposed to travel that far?” the butterfly wails.

Each step along the way involves a decision that will affect his success or failure in traveling to the ancestral home. The butterfly encounters whales, insects, storms, and discouragement. Each decision leads him closer to his destination. Hilarious, this book is sure to make kids think about decisions, and about persistence.

Self-Awareness: The abilities to understand one’s own emotions, thoughts, and values and how they influence behavior across contexts.


Fairy Science by Ashley Spires (2019)

All the fairies in Pixieville believe in magic–except Esther. She believes in science.

When a forest tree stops growing, all the fairies are stumped–including Esther. But not for long! Esther knows that science can get to the root of the problem–and its solution! Esther is self-aware and understands that she operates by science, not magic.

Self-Management. The abilities to manage one’s emotions, thoughts, and behaviors effectively in different situations and to achieve goals and aspirations. 


BE STRONG: The Rise of Beloved Public Art Sculptor, Nancy Schön, by Darcy Pattison, illustrated by Rich Davis (2024)

When kids are frustrated by art, building, creating, athletics, or life, and they want to quit, sculptor Nancy Schön’s story will inspire them with two simple words: Be Strong.

On a rainy day in October, 1987—perfect weather for a duck—a bronze sculpture of a duck family was installed in Boston’s Public Garden. Based on Robert McCloskey’s Caldecott award-winning book MAKE WAY FOR DUCKLINGS, sculptor Nancy Schön created a kid-friendly sculpture. She wanted the duck family to be touchable and huggable, a sculpture that kids could climb around on.

The incredible journey from a book to a sculpture adds a new chapter in an inspiring new biography of Jewish-American sculptor Nancy Schön, BE STRONG. Large outdoor sculptures were a new venture for Nancy and the scale made the project incredibly difficult. The mother duck’s head fell off. One duckling was the wrong size. She had to research how it looked inside of a duck’s beak. Through the hard days of trying to create a new type of sculpture, Nancy clung to two words: Be Strong.

About the Author: Children’s book author and indie publisher DARCY PATTISON has written over seventy award-winning fiction and non-fiction books for children. Five books have received starred PW, Kirkus, or BCCB reviews. Awards include the Irma Black Honor award, five NSTA Outstanding Science Trade Books, four Eureka! Nonfiction Honor book (CA Reading Assn.), two Junior Library Guild selections, two NCTE Notable Children’s Book in Language Arts, a Notable Social Studies Trade Book, a Best STEM Book, an Arkansiana Award, and the Susannah DeBlack Arkansas Children’s History Book award. She’s the 2007 recipient of the Arkansas Governor’s Arts Award for Individual Artist for her work in children’s literature. Her books have been translated into ten languages.

Thank you, Darcy, for putting together this amazing SEL picture book list!

Educators’ Guide for Sunny G’s Series of Rash Decisions by Navdeep Singh Dhillon

Share

Sunny G’s Series of Rash Decisions
Author: Navdeep Singh Dhillon
Published: February 8th, 2022 by Dial Books

Summary: For fans of Sandhya Menon and Adam Silvera, a prom-night romantic-comedy romp about a Sikh teen’s search for love and identity

Sunny G’s brother left him one thing when he died: His notebook, which Sunny is determined to fill up with a series of rash decisions. Decision number one was a big one: He stopped wearing his turban, cut off his hair, and shaved his beard. He doesn’t look like a Sikh anymore. He doesn’t look like himself anymore. Even his cosplay doesn’t look right without his beard.

Sunny debuts his new look at prom, which he’s stuck going to alone. He’s skipping the big fandom party—the one where he’d normally be in full cosplay, up on stage playing bass with his band and his best friend, Ngozi—in favor of the Very Important Prom Experience. An experience that’s starting to look like a bust.

Enter Mindii Vang, a girl with a penchant for making rash decisions of her own, starting with stealing Sunny’s notebook. When Sunny chases after her, prom turns into an all-night adventure—a night full of rash, wonderful, romantic, stupid, life-changing decisions.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation and Discussion Questions: 

Please view and enjoy the educators’ guide I created for Sunny G’s Series of Rash Decisions:

You can also access the educators’ guide here.

You can learn more about Sunny G’s Series of Rash Decisions, including a play list!, on the author’s webpage.

Recommended For: 

classroomlibrarybuttonsmall litcirclesbuttonsmall closereadinganalysisbuttonsmall

Kellee Signature

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #IMWAYR 4/22/24

Share

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?
For readers of all ages

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is a weekly blog hop we host which focuses on sharing what we’re reading. This Kid Lit version of IMWAYR focuses primarily on books marketed for kids and teens, but books for readers of all ages are shared. We love this community and how it offers opportunities to share and recommend books with each other.

The original IMWAYR, with an adult literature focus, was started by Sheila at Book Journeys and is now hosted by Kathryn at The Book Date. The Kid Lit IMWAYR was co-created by Kellee & Jen at Teach Mentor Texts.

We encourage you to write your own post sharing what you’re reading, link up below, leave a comment, and support other IMWAYR bloggers by visiting and commenting on at least three of the other linked blogs.

Happy reading!

Bold_line

Tuesday: The Mystery of Locked Rooms by Lindsay Currie

Sunday: Author Guest Post: “Location, Location, Location” by Sandy Grubb, Author of Just Like Click

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

Bold_line

Kellee

I am taking today off from IMWAYR, but you can learn more about any of the books I’ve been reading by checking out my read bookshelf on Goodreads.

Ricki

It is my week off, so I will see you next week!

Bold_line

Tuesday: Educators’ Guide for Sunny G’s Series of Rash Decisions by Navdeep Singh Dhillon

Sunday: Author Guest Post: “Social Emotional Learning with Picture Books” by Darcy Pattison, Author of BE STRONG: The Rise of Beloved Public Art Sculptor, Nancy Schön

Bold_line

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!

 Signature andRickiSig

Author Guest Post: “Location, Location, Location” by Sandy Grubb, Author of Just Like Click

Share

“Location, Location, Location”

Let’s face it—location matters and not just in real estate. If the hero of your story is battling pirates, it’s a much different story if the hero’s ship is sailing on rough seas off the coast of Somalia versus floating in a wading pool in the backyard. Imagine how different the books on this list would be if the settings were changed up:

  • Charlotte’s Web in a spaceship to Mars instead of the Zuckermans’ farm
  • The Girl Who Drank the Moon in an Arizona desert instead of a forest filled with dangers
  • Maizy Chen’s Last Chance in Switzerland instead of well…Last Chance
  • Freewater in the Rocky Mountains instead of the Great Dismal Swamp

The setting for the stories I write have always come to me before I choose my characters and figure out my plots. I’m not saying it must be that way, it’s just the way it’s worked out for me so far. Someday, I may take on the challenge of building a magical world, but for now, I find great satisfaction in writing contemporary stories.

Setting sets the stage. It conveys the time and place for the events of your story, where characters must face their challenges and come out on the other side changed for the better. Your setting needs to fit the kind of story you’re writing.

Setting defines limits and possibilities. If your character must confront magical swamp characters, it’s most likely not going to happen in a New York City highrise, though that could possibly be interesting. One challenge in writing is to avoid overly-used tropes. “It was a dark and stormy night” is perhaps the most famous setting cliché of all time. This was the opening line in a 19th century novel by the English author Edward Bulwer-Lytton. Edgar Allan Poe used it the following year as the opening line of a short story. It may have been left buried in time if it weren’t more recently used by Madeleine L’Engle as the opening line of A Wrinkle in Time and then over and over again by Snoopy of the Peanuts comic strip. Poe, Charles Schultz, and L’Engle knew full well they were taking a cliché from the past for a new double entendre effect.

When done well to full advantage, the setting becomes like another character in the story. By changing the season, time of day, lighting, weather, sounds, and smells an author can communicate emotions and tension in their story. In an early chapter of Just Like Click, Nick heads out at midnight to meet Celia for the first time. We read, “A gnarly pine snag sneers at me. I turn toward the stream. The inky black waters rush by chanting, Die, die, die.” With this setting description, it’s easy to know how Nick is feeling about being outside alone in the middle of the night without just typing “Nick was scared.” In addition, readers experience the setting with Nick.

Do you want to try some brainstorming?

What are some settings you may want to use for a story? Can you list five?

What kind of story might take place in each setting? In each case, think of events that could happen only in that setting.

Have fun with your writing. Use your imagination. Try new things. Writing takes courage—be brave!

Published April 16th, 2024 by Fitzroy Books/Regal House Publishing

About the Book: Nick Townley has lived his entire life—all eleven years—at Black Butte Ranch, nestled in the foothills of the snow-capped Cascade Mountains. While his parents push him to study, practice sports, and make friends, Nick prefers to retreat into his superhero universe and create exciting Adventures of Click comics. When a string of robberies threatens Dad’s job, forcing them to move across the country, Nick’s world implodes. He loves his home, and what will he do about the $237,000 in cash under his bed that Great Gramp gave him before he died?

Desperate to stop the move, Nick steps off his comic book pages and ventures into the night as Click, an undercover superhero. Catching thieves would be a lot easier if he had actual superpowers. When three new kids discover his identity and want to join him, Nick vows to stay undercover…until he realizes even a superhero needs friends. But can he ask them to put their lives in danger to save his home? What would Click do?

About the Author: Sandy Grubb has been writing children’s stories since she was a child herself. Her debut novel, Just Like Click, won the esteemed Kraken Book Prize, recognizing finely crafted middle grade fiction. When not at home in Lake Oswego, Oregon, Sandy and her family can often be found exploring nature trails and playing badminton at Black Butte Ranch, just like Click…and Nick!

sandygrubb.com
X: @sandygrubb
IG: sandygrubb
Facebook: sandygrubb

Thank you, Sandy, for this reflection on setting!