School Visit: All Saints School

Guys, I had so much fun visiting All Saints School this week. It was my second visit in two years, and while I spoke to the entire middle school the first time around, this time was super cool because I visited first with the 8th graders alone and then with the sixth graders. I love having more individual time with kids in a smaller setting. It feels more personal, and we have better discussions.

The middle school literature teacher, Cindy Gress, is passionate about books and reading and writing. Is there any better type ofeducator? He enthusiasm has spilled over into every single one of these kids. Case in point, she introduced her eighth graders to NaNoWriMo, and they are now eagerly plotting novels before they begin the challenge of writing an entire book this November. Guys, even I’ve never been brave enough to tackle NaNo, and these kids are going for it. I can’t wait to check in with them along the way and see how things are going. I tried to impart a little help regarding plot, character development, raising tension, and so forth, and I hope some of the pointers will help them along the way.


When it was time for the sixth graders to come, I waited in the classroom while Mrs. Gress retrieved them from their previous class. She’d told me they were super excited to meet me–after having read my book for their summer reading assignment–but I was not prepared for how excited they were. Seriously, one girl nearly broke down crying when she first saw me. I’m talking on the floor, doubled over, couldn’t catch her breath excitement. For me! Pretty crazy. I spent the next hour giving hugs, answering questions, signing books, and enjoying the company of some amazing kids.

I really love my job!

Book Review: MY SEVENTH GRADE LIFE IN TIGHTS by Brooks Benjamin

My Seventh-Grade Life in TightsMy Seventh-Grade Life in Tights by Brooks Benjamin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I found this book compelling. There’s something really cool about a group of kids doing their own thing, in their own way, and being totally okay with it. While covering topics that will make kids stop and think, it thankfully avoids cliches that can seem lesson-y. Props to Dillon and the Dizzee Freekz. And to the author, Brooks Benjamin.

I’d compare this to the YA book–of equal awesomeness–Spin the Sky by Jill Mackenzie. I’m so glad books like these exist.

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Chillicothe, Missouri: Home of Sliced Bread and Passionate Readers

I am just back from visiting some very impressive 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th graders in Chillicothe, Missouri. With my book, Just a Drop of Water, being a finalist for the 2016-2017 Missouri Association of School Libraries’ Truman Award, I was invited by the middle school media specialist, Laurinda Davison, to come visit for a few days. I am so, soooo glad I went. The schedule was jam-packed with meals, presentations, and signings, all giving me the chance to interact with students on a more personal basis. These kids are smart, chatty, and funny! Seriously, so funny! And a bonus, they loved my book. Sometimes I can hardly believe it when people tell me that.

Here are some things I learned in Chillicothe: (more…)

Book Review: THIS IS NOT THE ABBY SHOW by Debbie Reed Fischer

This Is Not the Abby ShowThis Is Not the Abby Show by Debbie Reed Fischer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I am notoriously tough when it comes to judging a book for its humor content, but I can honestly say I laughed my way through most of this one. Prior to reading THIS IS NOT THE ABBY SHOW, I had little knowledge of ADD/ADHD other than the negative stigma that is so often attached to the diagnosis. I’m grateful that this book allowed me inside Abby’s head to truly experience her thoughts, her desperate desire to control her impulses, but mostly witness her hope to be accepted for who she is despite all of those things. Every single character touched my heart, yet I was especially fond of Abby’s circle of new friends—each phenomenally unique and warm. The world is better for having this book to offer, and I applaud Debbie Reed Fischer for tackling this subject, not only from a female point-of-view, but also in a way that will impact readers for generations. Get ready to laugh, you guys!

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Book review: The First Last Day by Dorian Cirrone

The First Last DayThe First Last Day by Dorian Cirrone
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If the cover alone doesn’t draw you to this sweet middle-grade book, Haleigh’s story surely will. Haleigh doesn’t do well with change, and as the best summer of her life comes to an end, she spends her last night at the Jersey shore painting a picture of all the fun she and her new best friend Kevin have had over the previous months: building sand structures, making and watching movies together, hanging out with Kevin’s grandmother, G-Mags, and having free-run of the boardwalk. With the oil paint drying on the most perfect picture she’s ever painted, Haleigh wishes summer didn’t have to end. But she never expected her wish would actually come true.

I’m pretty sure none of us have ever experienced a time-loop before, but I’m confident anyone who reads this book will relate to Haleigh’s uncertainty of the future, her desire to keep things as they are, and ultimately her realization that fear shouldn’t keep one from truly living.

I loved this book and hope you will, too.

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Where were you on September 11, 2001?

Growing up, I’d heard older people tell stories at get-togethers that often began, “I remember exactly where I was when . . .” I knew that whatever happened altered the person’s world in some way, and I hoped I’d never witness an event where I’d say the same thing some day. But then, September 11 happened.

I’ve written many blog posts and done many interviews about 9/11, my book, why I wrote it, etc., but I’ve never been asked to share where I was that morning, until now. I REALLY, REALLY hope you’ll read this, share your stories on the blog, and keep coming back to read and comment on others’ stories because, as I say in the article, sharing is therapeutic and we’re all still healing–even 15 years later. Thanks, friends!

Sky Pony Press Blog: Where Were you on September 11?

Huffington Post: To Remember 9/11, Read a Book

I never dreamed my book would make it to the Huffington Post. This is such an honor, and I’m quite humbled. Thanks so much for including Just a Drop of Water in this article Saadia Faruqi. And thank you, Gae Polisner for letting Saadia know about my book. Readers, I hope you’ll check out each of these books, as they are individually unique, yet all help keep these important conversations going.

Huffington Post: To Remember 9/11, Read a Book

Five in Five with 5th grade teacher Jana Eschner

photo Jana EscherHi, Jana! It’s great to have you here as part of our month-long #MGGetsReal initiative where we strive to highlight tough topics in books for kids who might need them most. Thanks so much for all you do in your 5th grade classroom to educate, befriend, and mold today’s students. Now let’s have some fun.

 

  1. Let’s start with the most important question first: Do you prefer an amusement park or the beach?

I much prefer a beach to an amusement park. I’ve never been a big fan of crazy rides that scare me or make me sick. I love splashing around in water and relaxing under an umbrella with something cold to drink and a good book. If someone is playing fun music nearby, that’s even better! 

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