May 26, 2014
Happy Memorial Day! It has certainly been a weekend of "remembering" for me as I attended my 30th college reunion. Go Class of 1984! It was wonderful to see old friends and catch up, not to mention to trace old paths on campus and revisit old haunts. I went back to see my freshman dormitory, and it is almost exactly as I remembered it. It has these wonderful Art Deco wall sculptures on either side of the main entrance that mix images of rural America (The Sower) with images of "modern" America (airplanes, large boats, and skyscrapers). On the left-hand side are the words "As ye sow", and on the right-hand side, "So shall ye reap." But because the path to the dorm always took us by the right-hand one and never the left-hand one, many a student never made the connection between the two. I remember a friend of mine saying that for months (before discovering the left-hand plaque), she read the first one as an intimidating question: "So, shall ye reap?" Intimidating, indeed, for any eighteen-year-old freshmen to contemplate on a daily basis. After listening to the life-stories of so many friends this weekend, I can say with confidence that we've all done some pretty good reaping: wonderful children, work that brings us joy and gratification, the little bit of wisdom that comes with aging. Go Class of 1984!
May 19, 2014
I had lunch with my mom yesterday, and she gave me something she'd found tucked in an old book on her bookshelf: apparently it's a spelling worksheet that I filled out when I was seven years old! Look how neat my printing was! Today, my handwriting is so messy, I can't even read it myself. And what complicated rules of spelling we were expected to memorize. I'm glad spelling isn't taught this way anymore. At least I don't think it is. I think the strangest thing on this strange artifact from the past is this sentence: "When men are unjust, they are unhappy." I'm sorry to say, I don't think this is true. I wish it were, but I think people are sometimes very unjust and perfectly happy with the results. In any case, what an odd idea to include on a worksheet for seven-year-olds!
May 18, 2014
Sunday is a good day for answering letters from readers, and I had a stack of them. Here are just a few that were on my desk. Kids ask great questions and make some really interesting observations. Sometimes they point out things in my books that I wasn't even aware of. And sometimes they say the nicest things, like the reader below who wrote that, "You have really made my imagination expand." I love that image: an imagination like a balloon, growing bigger and bigger. Thank you, readers! You brighten my day.
May 17, 2014
I just signed the contracts for the rights to the Japanese translation of THE LEMONADE WAR. The book has also been translated into Korean and Turkish, and of course Spanish for sale in the United States. I have to admit, I'd really like to see it in French! I took French in high school and lived in Paris for a while after I graduated from college, so I have a particular wish to read the book in that language. So, come on, France! You know you love le citron pressé. Why not a book about a favorite beverage?
May 15, 2014
I had a wonderful Skype visit with the second- and third-graders at Alden Primary School in Alden, New York. The school is the second-place winner of the Third Annual Great Lemonade War Contest, which raises money to fund kids' cancer research. The students at Alden raised $7,695! Isn't that spectacular! I felt so privileged to have the chance to meet with them and congratulate them on their hard work. They told me about how they raised the money—lots of lemonade stands, along with selling bracelets they made themselves—and I talked a little bit about my books and, of course, showed them my dog, Harley. Or should I say Harley showed herself. She always gets very interested whenever I'm Skyping and wants to be part of the action. The kids, naturally, were very interested in her, and she obliged by coming right up to the camera and snuffling loudly. If you'd like to enter next year's contest for the chance to win a free school visit from me, not to mention raise money for a great cause, just click here. My dog will be happy to snuffle for you, too!
May 12, 2014
I'm back home from IRA, but I wanted to post just a few more pictures of the beautiful city of New Orleans. After all, I won't have anything of interest to report today, since it will be a day of unpacking, doing laundry, and vacuuming dog hair. So nice to be home!
May 11, 2014
Before flying back home, I had a chance to sit in on a few presentations at IRA and meet some of the presenters (and snag photos with them). Here's a picture of the wonderfully enthusiastic Erica Perl from First Book, a non-profit literacy organization devoted to breaking down the Number One barrier to literacy: access to books. To date, First Book has put more than 100 million books in the hands of children in need. Wow. That's a lot books. That's a lot of happy readers. Erica spoke on the Stories for All Project, which has the goal of increasing multicultural content and creators in the world of kids' books.
I also sat in on a terrific presentation that linked poetry and science, listening to some great poems by children's poets Janet Wong, Amy Ludwig VanDerwater, Eric Ode, Shirley Duke, and Vida Zuljevic. Among other things, they introduced us to a wonderful anthology of science poems called THE POETRY FRIDAY ANTHOLOGY FOR SCIENCE (K–5). Every poem they read was better than the last. I am definitely going to get my hands on a copy of this book. Below is a picture of me with the irrepressible Janet Wong.
May 10, 2014
I had a great time presenting with Carol Jago today at IRA and meeting all the good folks who came to our session. The room was full to capacity half an hour before our start time, so we began the session early. As Carol said, "The party's here! Why wait?" Carol talked about what close reading means and why it's getting "a bad rap" these days—and most importantly why it shouldn't. Then she shared some wonderful visual images of works of art and got us to do a "close reading" of those visuals. She's a knowledgeable, funny, smart speaker, and it was great to have a chance to hear her thoughts on an important topic.
For my part, I talked about my experience traveling to schools all across the country and what I see going on in the classroom in terms of teaching THE LEMONADE WAR and fostering close reading. Mine was a "boots on the ground, in the trenches" look at how teachers work every day to engage the whole reader: mentally, physically, and emotionally. I shared lots of real-world examples of schools that are connecting my book with kids via the mind, the body, and the heart.
Here are a pair of pictures that Jeff Byrd, from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, took of the event. I love the dedicated teachers sitting outside our glass-enclosed presentation space, dutifully taking notes!
May 9, 2014
I arrived in New Orleans this morning (my first visit to the city) and had a chance to walk around the famed French Quarter. Can I just say that I love doors? I always have. And New Orleans has some really beautiful wrought iron doors (pictured below). I also made my way down to the river, the Mighty Mississippi. Hmmm. Another state, another river, another Audubon connection (see my post on April 10). But I did NOT walk across this river. No time! had to get back to my hotel room and prepare for tomorrow's presentation with Carol Jago on Close Reading of Trade Books. Hope to see some of you there!
May 7, 2014
As the school year winds down, I'm taking a moment to reflect back on all the schools and districts that adopted THE LEMONADE WAR as a One School, One Book (OSOB) or a One District, One Book (ODOB) reading event. Both programs are organized by Read To Them, a non-profit organization that advocates reading to children for "just fifteen minutes a day." There were so many wonderful schools and districts that I was able to visit this year as part of OSOB/ODOB intiatives, and I just have to say that the energy, enthusiasm, and community building that takes place around these events is absolutely mind-blowing. I've had teachers and administrators tell me that having an entire school or district read a single book was a transformative experience. If you've thought about trying an OSOB or ODOB initiative but worried that it would be too much to take on, I encourage you to get in touch with the good folks at Read To Them. And if you'd like to have an author visit as part of either your kickoff event or your culminating event, please visit my site to learn more about my school visits. Finally, if your school or community would be well served by a book that is available in both English and Spanish, I'm pleased to say that THE LEMONADE WAR/LA GUERRA DE LA LIMONADA is one of five books in both Spanish and English available from Read To Them for use as an OSOB/ODOB book.
May 6, 2014
Back from New York, but wanted to post one more little video from the trip. On Sunday, we went to the Broadway musical "Kinky Boots," which stars Billy Porter, who won a 2013 Tony award for Best Actor in a Musical for his performance in the show. The show is about acceptance: both accepting yourself for who you are and accepting others for who they are. The wonderful music is by Cindi Lauper, and the final song includes these Six Secrets to Success: 1) Pursue the truth. 2) Learn something new. 3) Accept yourself and you'll accept others, too. 4) Let love shine. 5) Let pride be your guide. 6) You change the world when you change your mind. Amen to that!
Here's a little video of Billy Porter after the show signing playbills for his fans. What a gracious and warm person he is—not to mention a dapper dresser.
May 5, 2014
I wanted my daughter to see the site of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire of 1911, which I write about in my young adult novel LOST. The building (on the corner of Washington Place and Greene Street, now owned by NYU) is not the same building that caught fire on that tragic day, but the one that has replaced it is so similar that it's easy to imagine what the scene must have looked like over a century ago. Indeed, as we stood on the street below, we looked up to the top three floors of the new building (the 8th, 9th, and 10th stories) and imagined what the girls on those very same floors must have seen as they looked to the street below. Whenever I'm in New York, I try to stop by the site and take a moment to reflect.
May 3, 2014
Well, beauty is everywhere in New York City this weekend. Look what's blooming at The Cloisters, a gem of a museum (part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, located in Fort Tryon Park on the northernmost tip of the island in the Hudson Heights neighborhood). The Cloisters museum exhibits the Unicorn Tapestries, which are thought to have been designed in Paris and woven in Brussels in about 1500 as a wedding gift for an unknown couple with the initials "A" and "E." Here's a photo of the best known of the seven tapestries: The Unicorn in Captivity. (See if you can spot the initials woven into the cloth.)
And one more thing of beauty in the city: the new World Trade Center Tower, which we caught sight of as we were walking in Greenwich Village. Flowering trees below. A stormy sky above. Each beautiful in its own way.
May 2, 2014
Got on an early train to New York City today for a weekend of fun with my daughter. Naturally we stopped by the public library on Fifth Avenue. (Whenever I'm in a new city, I seek out the library. It helps me feel connected.) I've been to the NYPL many times, but I wanted to show my daughter what a grand and lively place it is. We were rewarded with the beauty of the tulip beds, which are spectacular. As always, the lions standing guard look both regal and inviting.