Author Guest Post: “Dual Narratives” by Tricia Springstubb, Author of Looking For True

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“Dual Narratives”

You are not the center of the universe.

Of all the hard lessons we learn growing up, this may be the hardest. Discovering that the world won’t always give us what we want, when we want it, is hard. Understanding that other people see things differently from us and, what’s more, they may be right, is really hard.

As with so many things (maybe everything?), books can help. By their very nature, stories ask us to see through other eyes. Reading, we live inside other heads, share the joys, sorrows and fears of other hearts. Whenever I visit schools, I ask kids for book recommendations. I’ll never forget the look on a fourth grader’s face as she raptly described a book where two characters experienced the exact same thing but described it in two totally different ways. Hers was the look of revelation!

Before Looking for True, I’d never succeeded in writing a boy main character. Somehow I could never find the right voice–I’m not sure why. Maybe I was waiting for Jude, a guy who’s actually pretty stingy with his words but nonetheless started whispering in my ear. Quiet as he is, I needed to introduce Jude to Gladys, who is a blabbermouth. Then along came True, an abused dog. While Jude labels her ugly and Gladys calls her adorable, each of them feels the pullind a connect with True

Writing from two points of view, I could show how Gladys knows Jude is in love with True long before Jude does. I could show how Jude, who’s got lots of trouble at home, thinks Gladys has a perfect family, even as Gladys, who’s adopted, worries about losing her parents’ love. Meanwhile, the god-like reader gets to see not only how often they misunderstand each other but also how, by caring for True, they slowly discover all they share. For me, someone who usually writes a close third point of view, this was as close to omniscience as I’ll ever get. I loved writing this book.

A dual narrative can be great fun for students to try. They can do this in a quick writing prompt, describing something (a blizzard, a rock concert) from two points of view (a school kid, a tired parent).  In stories, a dual narrative gives them the freedom to write shorter scenes and try out different voices. While some students will choose to create a clear antagonist and protagonist, others will find themselves puzzling over how the characters are different, where they connect, and what it all might mean.

Some wonderful mentor texts, stories told from two (or sometimes more) point of view:

  • So Done by Paula Chase is a powerful YA about two girls whose long friendship is fraying after a summer apart. Chase explores ambition, secrets, and loyalty.
  • Pax by Sarah Pennypacker is a remarkable MG novel about a boy and the fox he has raised from a kit, told from both the child’s and the animal’s points of view.
  • We Dream of Space by Erin Entrada Kelly gives voice to three siblings, each tracing a separate orbit in a troubled family. This historical MG is about science, resilience and the enduring bonds brothers and sisters share.
  •  Alfie (The Turtle That Disappeared) by Thyra Heder is a whimsical picture book where, halfway through, the perspective switches from the child to Alfie. Only the reader gets to know the full story! 

You are not the center of the universe. A hard lesson! But writing and reading stories with multiple narrators teaches us this: You are one shining light in a wide, wonderful galaxy of fellow stars.

Published November 1st, 2022 by Margaret Ferguson Books

About the Book: Though they live in the same small, Rust Belt town, there’s no way Jude and Gladys—a quiet, sullen boy big for his age and a tiny, know-it-all girl– could ever be friends.

Until…along comes a dog with a crooked tail and true-blue eyes. Gladys has never liked dogs, and Jude’s afraid of them, but this one, who’s being sadly mistreated, tugs at both their hearts. They hatch a plan to hide True in an abandoned house on the edge of town till they can figure out a better solution. As their ties to the dog–and to one another–deepen, the idea of giving her up becomes impossible. Keeping such a big secret becomes increasingly difficult.  Then True’s owner offers a big return for her return–money Jude’s family desperately needs. The friendship, and True’s fate, hangs in the balance.

Told in alternating voices, this fresh, moving, suspenseful novel explores the joys and challenges of opening our hearts to others, whether they have two legs or four.

“A heartfelt contemporary novel about unexpected friendship that kicks off with a Because of Winn-Dixie–tinged bond. . . . Springstubb gracefully conveys their need for both connection and independence, portraying sweet, protective relationships that each has with young children. Alternating third-person perspectives render unique characterizations.”—Publishers Weekly

“A bighearted novel. . . .”—Kirkus Reviews

About the Author: Tricia is the author of many books for children, including the award winning middle grade novels What Happened on Fox Street, Moonpenny Island and Every Single Second. She’s also written four books in the Cody chapter book series, illustrated by Eliza Wheeler, as well as the picture book Phoebe and Digger, illustrated by Jeff Newman. Her newest picture book, Khalil and Mr. Hagerty and the Backyard Treasures, illustrated by Elaheh Taherian, is an ALA Notable Book. Kirkus called her 2021 middle grade The Most Perfect Thing in the Universe, a “perfect thing in the universe of juvenile literature.” Her next novel, Looking for True, publishes November 1, 2022. Tricia has worked as a Head Start teacher and a children’s library associate. Besides writing and, of course, reading, she loves doing school and library visits. Mother of three grown daughters and four perfect grandbabies, she lives with her husband, garden and cats in Cleveland Heights, Ohio. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram, and contact her at www.triciaspringstubb.com

Thank you, Tricia, for this reflection and recommendations!

Author Guest Post: “Fun Ways to Bring Animal Migration into the Classroom” by Amy Hevron, Author of The Longest Journey: An Artic Tern’s Migration

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“Fun Ways to Bring Animal Migration into the Classroom”

I love birdwatching and am fascinated by migrating birds. In The Longest Journey: An Arctic Tern’s Migration, I showcase an epic migrator on her first globe-spanning adventure. When I began writing this story, I wondered, what would it be like to travel across the globe? Across every climate zone from polar lands to temperate zones, to subtropics and tropics? What would the landscapes look like? What other animals would be along the way? Piecing together this little seabird’s journey was fascinating and combined my passions for wildlife, world geography, Earth sciences and art. Here are some fun ways kids can explore animal migration and mapmaking in the classroom.

Track birds in your area

Birds are all around us. And whether they are year-round residents or just here for the season, these wildlife neighbors of ours are fascinating to learn more about. Kids could pick a migrating bird from your area and find out where they migrate. They could plot their bird’s journey on a world map. What cities, states, countries, and continents does this local bird see? Kids could learn about their bird’s life cycle and draw how it looks at the different life stages from egg, to chick, to juvenile, to adult. Many birds migrate in their first year of life. At what age does their bird migrate? They could find out what kind of habitat their bird lives in, what kind of nest it makes, and what kind of food it eats. And in learning more about its migration, kids could think about what obstacles this bird might encounter or what amazing sites it might see on its journey. A helpful site to find out more about birds in your area is www.allaboutbirds.org. Also, the Audubon app for smart phones and tablets is a great birding resource as well.

Track other Arctic migrators

In addition to Arctic terns, other Arctic animals migrate, like narwhals and Pacific walruses. Kids could pick a different Arctic animal and explore the migration of this species. Why does it migrate? What might that journey look like on a map? By focusing on other animals that live in the Arctic region, this could provide an opportunity to discuss the impacts of climate change on wildlife as well. Animals that live in the Arctic are especially sensitive to global warming because the Arctic is warming at a faster rate than elsewhere in the world. How is their Arctic animal impacted by warming land and oceans? How is it adapting? Additionally, you could talk about the Earth’s seasons as they relate to the Arctic and how around Summer Soltice the sun never sets, and in Winter it is dark all day. How do the Arctic seasons affect their animal’s activities? The Active Wild website lists a range of interesting Arctic animals to learn more about (https://www.activewild.com/arctic-animals-list/).

Dive into mapmaking

A fun way to learn about world geography is through creating maps. Kids could create a map of their own migration adventure, either real or imaginary. They could start with a whole world map, a continent or a country. Kids could add traditional map details like labels for the land, bodies of water, and a compass with North, South, East, and West. On a world map, kids could add in the major latitudinal lines of the Equator, Tropic of Cancer, Tropic of Capricorn, the Arctic circle and Antarctic circle. They could learn about how the climate is different at these different latitudes. They could research and then illustrate different flora and fauna on the map within their appropriate climate zones. From here, kids could plot their migration path. Where would their journey take them? What sites would they see? What food would they eat along the way? A fun tool to use for research is Google Earth (earth.google.com). You can zoom in to see what the landscape looks like anywhere on Earth. Also, Google image searching “illustrated maps” can provide some inspiration for different ways to illustrate maps. Wikipedia’s site provides different world map images, including this simple world map that could be used as a starting point https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:A_large_blank_world_map_with_oceans_marked_in_blue.PNG.

Published July 12, 2022 by Neal Porter Books

About the Book: Follow the epic annual migration of an Arctic Tern on its sixty-thousand-mile journey to the South Pole and back again, the longest such migration in the animal kingdom.

In their thirty-year lifetimes, Arctic Terns travel nearly 1.5 million miles, that’s enough to fly to the Moon and back three times! Each year they brave blistering winds, storms, rough seas, and airborne predators as they travel between the Earth’s poles, chasing the summer. In The Longest Journey: An Arctic Tern’s Migration, we follow one such bird as it spreads its wings and sets out to make its first globe-spanning trip with its flock.

Amy Hevron is the illustrator of Trevor by Jim Averbeck, the recipient of multiple starred reviews. She also illustrated Candace Fleming’s The Tide Pool Waits which was the recipient of the Portfolio Honor Award from the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Her brilliant, naturalistic artwork mimicking maps and nautical charts is supported by extensive research and paired with material at the back of the book explaining the science behind the life cycle of Arctic Terns.

About the Author: Amy Hevron is an illustrator, designer, and children’s book author. She wrote and illustrated Dust Bunny Wants a Friend and illustrated Trevor by Jim Averbeck, which received multiple starred reviews. She also illustrated The Tide Pool Waits, by Candace Fleming. In both 2015 and 2016, she received the Portfolio Honor Award from the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. She lives in Seattle with her family.

https://www.amyhevron.com/
@amyhevron on Instagram and Twitter

https://holidayhouse.com/book/the-longest-journey/
@holidayhousebks on all social platforms

Thank you, Amy, for these fun migration activities for the classroom!

Author Guest Post: “See the Seeds!” by Antoinette Portis, Author of A Seed Grows

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“See the Seeds”

Once you start thinking about seeds, you might be surprised to see how many different kinds you encounter in daily life.

When you’re planting a garden, of course you think about seeds. And when you’re eating a slice of watermelon, you kind of have to think about seeds. But this summer, as I sliced tomatoes and the slimy guts slid out onto a plate, or when I ate a plum and spit out the little rock in the middle, I started to notice how many seeds I encounter in a day. Maybe you eat a handful of nuts as a snack—walnuts, pecans, almonds, pepitas—these are seeds. But so is your morning oatmeal, made from the edible seed of the oat grass plant! The bread most of us eat is made from flour that’s the ground up seed of the wheat plant.

See how many seeds we can meet in one day! Maybe try keeping count to see how many kinds of seeds you eat or interact with in a day or a week.

As a child, I used to gather seed pods from the various kinds of trees in my neighborhood: bottle tree seedpods that looked like little boats, and others, from the Jacaranda tree, that looked like clam shells or tortoise shells; from the carob tree, hard brown pods that looked like giant snap peas and rattled like maracas when you shook them. Pinecones that looked like miniature Christmas trees and every once in a while had a seed still attached to a scale or two. And prickly balls from the Sweet Gum tree that look like Christmas decorations.

Finding these seeds when walking to school or to a neighborhood friend’s house was a jumping off place for my imagination. But more importantly, it reassured me I lived in nature, that my life was part of a giant, beautiful cycle of life.

I’ve made some activity sheets about various kinds of seeds. Enjoy!

Published June 21st, 2022 by Neal Porter Books

About the Book: The transformative life cycle of a sunflower plays out in this bold read-aloud by Sibert honoree Antoinette Portis.

A seed falls,
And settles into the ground,
And the Sun shines,
And the rain comes down,
And the seed grows…”

To understand how a seed becomes a sunflower, you have to peek beneath the soil and wait patiently as winding roots grow, a stalk inches out of the earth, and new seeds emerge among blooming petals.

With evocative and lively illustrations, A Seed Grows offers a close-up view of each step of this process and the ways in which flowers and seeds depend on other creatures, with a striking fold-out spread of a full-grown sunflower and additional material at the back of the book explaining the science of plant life cycles.

About the Author: Antoinette Portis is the author of many inventive books for children, including Not a Box, a New York Times Best Illustrated Book and a Geisel Honor Book; and the Sibert Honor Book Hey, Water!. Other books include A New Green Day, which was a Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year, as well as the ALA Notable Books Wait and Now. A recipient of the prestigious Sendak Fellowship, Antoinette lives in Southern California where she grows her own sunflowers, like this one. 

https://www.antoinetteportis.com/
@aportisa on Twitter

https://holidayhouse.com/book/a-seed-grows/
@holidayhousebks on all platforms

Thank you, Antoinette, for sharing all of the amazingness of seeds!

Author Guest Post: “Bring the Text to Life: Baking the Cake” by Stephen Savage, Author of Moonlight

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“Bring the Text to Life: Baking the Cake”

In 2004, when I began my career in children’s books with a book called Polar Bear Night (published by Scholastic, written by Lauren Thompson), I thought I had it all figured out. I was of the mind that picture books were mainly about the visuals (why else would they call them “picture books”). And as crazy as what I am about to say sounds, I didn’t really understand how the text functioned. I knew it filled blank spaces in the illustrations, but that’s about it. It seemed like “the icing on the cake”. Little did I know.

Then in 2010, I decided I wanted to bake a cake and ice it, too. My daughter had just been born, and I felt inspired to write a story about her. One morning, as I stumbled across the Gowanus canal on my way to my studio in Brooklyn (I hadn’t gotten enough sleep the night before), I spotted a tug boat. “That’s my story”, I thought. I could see the visuals perfectly. 

But what about those blank spaces in the images? They’d need words! By this time, I had illustrated three books, visited a few classrooms, gotten to know the reading habits of kids, and was starting to figure things out a bit. I was learning that picture books were read-alouds, and that the words were very important (duh!).

I was on to the fact that words could be fun to say. Words could engage. More importantly, words could create a beginning, middle, and end in a book. I had so much to learn. I spent months writing my ideas down on index cards, until the cards fell together to form Little Tug (Roaring Brook Press/Macmillan).

This summer, my seventh book as both author and illustrator comes out. It’s called Moonlight. And I’m sure if I showed the book to my 2004 self, he’d scoff at the text. At only 85 words, he’d regard it as a very thin layer of icing on top of an already yummy cake.

But here’s what I’d say to my old, uniformed self: effective picture book text may seem effortless, but that’s not the case. I’d point out all the craft that went into the writing, a discussion of which, could be used to stimulate discussion in the classroom.

I’d point out FOUR examples of writing tools I used to bring the text to life:

  1. PERSONIFICATION: The book opens with the line “Something is on the move”. Personifying the moonlight, turning it into the protagonist in the story, was one way I put a new spin on the traditional lullaby/nighttime theme. 
  2. VIVID VERBS: Words like “slithering”, “drifting” and “tumbling” give the reader a sense of action and adventure. They create excitement and drama.
  3. ALLITERATION: “Sliding down silvery tracks” may just be my favorite line in the book. Why? It’s fun to say. And I have my editor, Neal Porter, to thank for that alliterative line. He replaced my original word, “Icy” with “silvery”. PS: I think it’s nice for young readers to hear how professional artists get help from their teachers (er, I mean editors 😉
  4. SENSORY LANGUAGE makes a story relatable. I used the line “Then it rests for a while, next to you” for a rush of emotion at the critical moment in the story when the moonlight journeys into the child’s bedroom. Certainly, the image of the cat snuggled up against the child reinforces this ‘touch’. 

So now that I’m thinking about it, this “icing on the cake” analogy doesn’t really apply anymore. In picture books, images always work together with text to tell the story. I had to work hard to figure this out, and luckily my editors and mentors have been generous with their advice and suggestions. Like most things in life, writing is about practice and good guidance. And a little piece of cake and a glass of milk while you’re working never hurts!

NOTE: Special thanks goes to teacher/reading specialist Renee Davis of Glastonbury, Connecticut (my sister-in-law) for acting as a consultant on this post.

Published August 23rd, 2022 by Neal Porter Books

About the Book: A lyrical bedtime read about the captivating effects of moonlight and its nightly journey.

Something is on the move.”

When moonlight shines, it’s not like most light. In the quietest hours of the night, it swings through trees and slithers down rivers. It drifts in the wake of steamships and catches on the propeller of a passing plane. It blankets neighborhoods before coming to rest by your side.

In this bedtime picture book, Stephen Savage, author and illustrator of And Then Came HopeBabysitter from Another Planet, and the Geisel Honor book Supertruck, presents a lyrical text and illustration full of dramatic light and shadow to pay homage to the mysterious moon and the unique ways it reveals itself each night.

About the Author: STEPHEN SAVAGE is an award-winning children’s book author and illustrator whose accolades include a New York Times Best Illustrated Book (Polar Bear Night) and a Geisel Honor (Supertruck). Polar Bear Night was a New York Times bestseller. He also wrote and illustrated And Then Came Hope and Babysitter from Another Planet. He teaches at the School of Visual Arts and lives in Brooklyn with his wife, daughter and two dogs. 

https://www.savageillustrator.com/
@savageillustrator on Instagram
@savageartist on Twitter

https://holidayhouse.com/book/moonlight/
@holidayhousebks on all platforms

Thank you, Stephen, for sharing sharing your analogy that can move writing to the next level!

Author Guest Post: “Little Red and the Big Bad Educator’s Guide” by Rebecca Kraft Rector, Author of Little Red and the Big Bad Editor

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“Little Red and the Big Bad Educator’s Guide”

When I learned Shanda McCloskey would be illustrating my story LITTLE RED AND THE BIG BAD EDITOR, I was ecstatic. I knew her art would bring to life my story of the Big Bad Wolf correcting Little Red’s thank you letter to Granny. And I was right. The vibrant colors! The actions! The humor! I was so lucky to be paired with Shanda.

Then I learned Shanda, like me, had an educational background and she wanted to collaborate on an educator’s guide for LITTLE RED AND THE BIG BAD EDITOR. What a great idea! Many publishers and editors provide educator’s guides for their picture books.

There are so many ways to use picture books in classrooms from kindergarten on up. They’re rich in vocabulary and can have a higher reading level than many novels. They’re short and appealing to lower-level readers, ESL, and special needs students. For a generation that enjoys graphic novels and sharing pictures and stories on social media, picture books can be a familiar format. In fact, picture books often introduce new concepts and facts in an accessible way. They are an excellent entry point for all ages about topics that are difficult to understand or discuss.

But what about LITTLE RED AND THE BIG BAD EDITOR? Could we put together a useful educator’s guide for a fun story about correcting a heartfelt but poorly written letter? No problem! I’d done a basic guide for my first picture book SQUISH SQUASH SQUISHED and even produced a short video for a school librarian presentation. My brain was stuffed with methods for meeting curriculum standards after writing lesson plans, test passages, questions and answers for educational publishers.

I told Shanda “Yes!” and got to work.

Like Little Red, I whipped out my crayons (computer) and started writing. And like the Big Bad Wolf, I crumpled up those pages and threw them away. The Big Bad Wolf couldn’t fault me on my capitalization and finger spacing, but there were just too many elements that I wanted to include.

For instance, I could ask students to look for examples of characterization, plot, setting, theme, and story structure. They could practice story prediction by guessing what would happen in the story based on the cover and title.

So many possibilities for discussions and story prompts, too! Students could write their own stories by thinking about what happens before or after the story, or within the pictures. What was Little Red doing before the present arrived? What happened after the last page of the story? What about that little turtle, what’s his story?

Maybe I should focus on figurative language—the assonance, alliteration, similes, idioms, onomatopoeia, etc. in LITTLE RED. Find the simile: “Little Red was pleased as punch. Granny had sent her a present! Red ripped off the wrappings and removed a cape as scarlet as a ripe tomato.”

What about sequencing and cause and effect? Oh, we could use Shanda’s art for that! Which picture shows what comes first, middle, and last? Which picture shows what caused Little Red to write a thank you note?

And I couldn’t forget about compare/contrast! Both SQUISH SQUASH SQUISHED and LITTLE RED are “fractured” versions of folktales. SQUISH SQUASH SQUISHED is considered a modern version of both TOO MUCH NOISE and IT COULD ALWAYS BE WORSE. After reading an original version and the new version, students could compare/contrast the stories for all of the elements listed above, plus author’s voice and even author’s purpose. Younger students could compare/contrast the illustrations for the stories.

Shanda created awesome activities within a week. She even included practice sheets for writing letters and cursive writing. But after a month I still struggled with narrowing down all the possibilities.

Finally, I realized (why did it take me so long?!) that I couldn’t include everything. Some things would have to be left out. But we’re both really happy with the final product and would be thrilled if you’d take a look. It’s on my website https://rebeccakraftrector.wordpress.com and Shanda’s https://www.shandamc.com and here’s a direct link http://ow.ly/IHPC50KffBh.

Published September 6th, 2022 by Aladdin/Simon & Schuster

About the Book: In this clever and playful fractured fairy tale picture book, the Big Bad Wolf is so distracted by Little Red’s poorly written thank you note to her grandmother that he keeps missing the chance to eat her!

Once upon a time, Little Red received a bold new cape from her Granny. She wrote her a thank you note, packed a basket of goodies, and walked through the meadow to Granny’s house. But swish swash SWOOP, the big bad wolf stops her in her tracks, opens his mouth wide, leans in close and…​

Sees the note.

Mr. Wolf can’t believe how sloppy the letter is—Red can’t give this to Granny! He corrects her grammar but misses out on his dinner while he’s distracted each time he encounters Red on the path. Can she keep outsmarting the Big Bad Editor and make it all the way to Granny’s house?

About the Author: Rebecca Kraft Rector is a retired librarian and the author of more than thirty fiction and nonfiction books for children. Her cats Ollie and Opal keep her company while she writes. When she isn’t writing and eating chocolate, she’s trying to keep deer out of her garden.

LITTLE RED AND THE BIG BAD EDITOR is Rebecca’s second picture book, coming from Aladdin/Simon & Schuster on September 6, 2022.

Visit Rebecca online at https://rebeccakraftrector.wordpress.com

Thank you, Rebecca, for introducing us to your book and how useful it will be in classrooms and libraries!

Author Guest Post: “The Whole Book Approach” by Diane deGroat, Author of The Adventures of Robo-Kid

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The Whole Book Approach to The Adventures of Robo-Kid

The Whole Book Approach to story time reading was developed by Megan Dowd Lambert in association with the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art to “bring children’s ideas and questions to the center of shared reading while celebrating the picture book as a visual form.” Yes, it’s a mouthful, but when witnessed in action, it becomes an exciting way to share picture books with children by drawing inspiration from Visual Thinking Strategies (www.vtshome.org). As Megan says in the preface to her book, Reading Picture Books with Children: How to Shake Up Storytime and Get Kids Talking About What They See (Charlesbridge 2015), we should invite children to react to “the whole book­”—its text, art, design, production, and materiality.

How have the designers tested the limits of its “bookness?” Not only does it have shape and weight and visual appeal, but it is mobile. It can be opened and closed. It is an object, not just a story to be listened to. In this day of eBooks and streaming, a printed book is an art form which has staying power. Children can engage with great picture book art and critical thinking skills when the discussion starts before reading the book, continues after reading it, and, importantly, includes a large amount of discussion during the reading of the book. Studies have found that this dialogic reading enhances comprehension, engagement, vocabulary, and literacy skills. More information about the Whole Book Approach can be found on Megan’s website: www.megandowdlambert.com.

Now for an example. I designed my new book, The Adventures of Robo-Kid with all of the above in mind. Take a look at the dustjacket and start with questions inspired by Visual Thinking Strategies: What do you see happening in this picture? What do you see that makes you say that? What else can you find? Then consider, what do you think the book will be about? Notice the two styles of art I used. One is realistic and the other is cartoony. Why do you think I did It that way?

Turn the book over and look at the back of the book. Notice that I made one continuous illustration wrap around from the front to the back. Why do you think I did that? What do you think will be more important in the book—the realistic part or the comic part? Or will they be equally important?

Take the paper dustjacket off. Look at the art pasted onto the hardcover underneath it and compare it to the dustjacket. See the difference? Do you feel like you are reading a comic book now, and not a picture book? That was my goal! Why do you think I did that?

Now open to the front endpapers. Megan says in her book, “Endpapers give us clues.” My endpapers introduce us to Robo-Kid and his dog even before the story has begun. Go back to using those VTS-inspired questions, or ask yourself: How does Robo-Kid get schooled? Why do you think he’s looking at the Earth globe with so much interest? What do you think his dog wants? If you miss seeing all this, the story inside the book still makes sense, but adding endpapers like this offers more material for the person/child who finds it to enjoy as the enter the story.

On the next spread, the title page will introduce us to Henry and his dog in my realistic style of art. So now you see why I used two styles—one for the comic book story and one for the “real” world story. But can you still find what is the same about the two characters and their worlds?

When you start to read the story you can see how I melded the two worlds into one book. Henry is engaged in reading his Robo-Kid comic. The comic art shows what he is reading.

The two stories will continue on spreads, with Henry’s at the top, and Robo-Kid’s below it—until they come together!

After the book was printed, and I read it to kids, I learned an important lesson. When reading a comic-type book to non-readers, it’s important to point to the panel and the text you are reading. Otherwise, showing the whole spread with so many different actions going on could be confusing.

I hope you can share this book with your students using the Whole Book Approach. Remember to look carefully at the art. Especially the very last page with Henry’s dog. What does he see that the others don’t? And don’t miss the back endpapers, which continue the story!

Published June 28, 2022 by Neal Porter Books

About the Book: A comic-book superhero climbs off the page and into the real world. When they get into trouble, his biggest fan is there to save the day.

Imagine you could meet your favorite comic-book hero in the real world. What kinds of questions would you ask? Would you go on new and exciting adventures? While heroes might seem larger than life, everyone can use some help from a friend.

Follow two intersecting stories set in the real world and inside a comic book as a real-life kid finds the courage to cope with his anxiety with the help of Robo-Kid, a comic superhero with his own vulnerabilities. With two distinctive art styles blending comic book and traditional picture book formats, Diane deGroat’s The Adventures of Robo-Kid is an inspiring tale about what it takes to be a hero.

Diane deGroat has been writing and illustrating picture books for more than thirty years. For the last ten years she has been illustrating the highly popular Charlie the Ranch Dog series with blogger, author, food-writer, and television personality Ree Drummond, also known as the Pioneer Woman.

About the Author: 

Diane deGroat
www.dianedegroat.com
www.thestorybehindthestories.com

Thank you, Diane, for this in depth look at using your book with readers!

Author Guest Post: “Their Story, Our Legacy” by Emily Francis, Author of If You Only Knew: Letters from an Immigrant Teacher

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“Their Story, Our Legacy”

During the first days back this year, our school received a special guest speaker, former educator and coach, who left a remarkable legacy. Coach Smith was fired up, sharing the wonderful stories that highlighted the amazing history of our school which he collected from 1893 to the day he retired.

I began to think about how his passionate stories impacted every staff member listening. The power of a story hit me to my core, and I began wondering about our students’ stories: What stories are students telling about our school? About us as teachers? Just like Coach Smith can share his powerful and impactful stories about a building, so our students are out and about telling stories about us.

Of course, I connected it to my personal experience as a former student new to the USA. As a fifteen-year-old scared immigrant, I entered high school with so much passion and persistence but left with shattered dreams. My story about my experience as a student in the USA is not a good one. It’s a story of pity and sadness and pain. I can close my eyes and feel exactly how I felt in my high school classes. These were uneasy feelings I don’t want my students to feel.

I cannot remember a teacher who would have incorporated practices to support my culture, identity, and strength. My high school years made me question my own identity. Just the fact that it was never acknowledged made me question my own existence.

Thinking about my personal stories from my former high school and listening to Coach Smith led me to think about my legacy. George Couros said, “Your legacy is not what you do. It’s what your students do because of you.” I dare to add… It’s what your students SAY because of you.

Feeling like we have been robbed of our identity may cause dysfunction in society. I know. I lived it. I now strive every year to make sure equitable practices are in place to better serve our students.

Sense of Belonging

A sense of belonging is imperative. Creating and maintaining a sense of belonging for our immigrant students is key to their success. As an individual from a diverse background, feeling a sense of belonging gives me the space I need to be myself without having to become someone that I am not. It’s the validation and the permission we need to develop our individuality and identity. Look at the decor around your learning space. Does it reflect their experiences, their cultural background? Does it provide an opportunity to not only embrace diversity but also validate other cultures? Make the space say, “We all belong.”

Pedagogical Practices

I have to quote Maya Angelou: “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” Some pedagogical practices we implement in the classroom may actually hinder students. The “I’ve always done it this way” approach does not work anymore. Our classrooms are more diverse than ever; meaning, our practices must change, and we must do better for our new generation. I wholeheartedly believe that being an open-minded life-long learner can help us as educators on the lookout for better practices that support students. Immigrant students work twice as much as monolingual English-speaking students to understand what is happening in lessons. With our help and effective classroom practices, we can ensure our students’ success instead of traumatize their learning experiences.

Amplify their Voices

We are not our students’ voices. All students need, especially students with marginalized backgrounds, is a microphone and a space to share who they are. When my high school economics teacher gave me an assignment to read the law of supply and demand, my mind traveled back to when I was in Guatemala City selling oranges for our family business. I was so happy to make a personal connection with the content I was learning. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a relationship with my teacher to ask if I could share that experience. He had never asked about my experiences, so he didn’t know of the asset I would have gladly shared. To amplify students’ voices, we MUST know their stories. We must intentionally embed lessons that serve as opportunities to get to know our students at a deeper level.

One way I encourage my students to share about themselves and their stories is through literature. I choose books that not only represent my students’ cultural backgrounds but also open their perspectives to others. Once students see characters that reflect their journeys, they feel validated, affirmed, and encouraged to tell their own. I’ve seen students cry because they couldn’t believe an immigrant story such as crossing the Rio Grande or deserts was worth telling. They begin to embrace their experiences and use them as stepping stones to success, to enter society with their heads held high and pride in their identity — ready to impact our community and world.

So, what are you doing to make sure your students are telling good stories about you and their learning experience? What’s your legacy?

Published September 1st, 2022 by Seidlitz Education

About the Book: Written with passion and a visceral commitment to her students, If You Only Knew: Letters from An Immigrant Teacher reflects the journey and experiences of Emily Francis, an immigrant and unaccompanied minor who travels from Guatemala to the USA to become a teacher. Once in the classroom, “Ms. Francis” learns about her students’ stories and journeys and begins to see her own life reflected in the lives of her students. Emily starts writing letters to her students in which her story is intertwined with theirs. This offers a unique expression of empathy, which helps them on their own personal journeys as immigrants living and learning in a new country.

“I could… imagine the fear you probably felt as you prepared to walk in a brand new school in a brand new country, so I made a promise that… I would make sure your experience would be a whole lot different than the one you had in that “icebox” with immigration.” (from the letter, “Dear Orlando”)

Speaking to both young adults and their teachers, If You Only Knew delivers support, solace, and empathy for immigrant students whose stories are too often are ignored. From personal experience, Emily Francis’ mission to offer a leg up to immigrant students deeply resonates with everyone interested in the immigrants and their journeys.

About the Author: Emily Francis is a high school ESL (English as a Second Language) teacher at Concord High School in Concord, North Carolina. Her experience as an immigrant from Guatemala and English Language Learner inspired her to become an ESL teacher and equipped her with a deep understanding of the challenges her immigrant students must overcome to find success. Cabarrus County Board of Education’s Teacher of the Year in 2016, she serves as a professional development facilitator, motivational speaker, and board member for the Carolina TESOL. Her book, If You Only Knew: Letters from an Immigrant Teacher, delivers support, solace, and empathy for immigrant students whose stories are too often ignored.

Thank you, Emily, for this post celebrating your students!