Dragon of the Month Club author visits

Iain Reading, author of the Dragon of the Month Club and the Kitty Hawk series visited our school again this week. Here is a presentation about the event.

 

Iain Reading Guest Author
Iain Reading, author of the middle grade Dragon of the Month Club and Kitty Hawk series came to our school on Thursday for a 5th grade author visit. This was his second visit in two years a…
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Wonder by RJ Palacio

I first read Wonder in 2012 and lost track of how many times I’ve recommended it. This book about ten-year old Auggie who was born with Treacher-Collins Syndrome which affects a person’s facial features.

“My name is August, but the way. I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.” page 3

Now this #1 New York Times bestseller is being released as a major motion picture on November 17th, starring Julia Roberts, Owen Wilson, Jacob Tremblay, Daveed Diggs, and Mandy Patinkin.

We have a copy of the new version of Wonder which includes full-color movie photos, exclusive content and a foreword by Stephen Chbosky, co-screenwriter/director of Wonder.

I have adored Auggie, his friends and this amazing book for years. As Stephen Chbosky writes in the foreword, “RJ Palacio has given our world- and our troubled times-a ray of light. A silver lining big enough for any gray cloud. A standing ovation for empathy itself. She has taught us that no side “owns” kindness. We can only practice it.”

I am looking forward to this movie. The previews look fantastic! I just hope I bring enough tissues…

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Lights, Camera, Middle School!

“Babymouse is back and sassieer than ever in her middle-grade debut, Babymouse Tales from the Locker: Lights, Camera, Middle School! Using Babymouse’s signature humor and engaging illustrations, sister and brother duo Jennifer and Matthew Holm are now introducing their beloved Babymouse to a new crop of readers sure to embrace the humor and heart of the new graphic novel series as younger readers have done for the original books.” From Random House Children’s Books

I’ve been waiting for a new Babymouse book. I never thought she would turn up as a middle schooler! Babymouse has to grow up? No, say it isn’t true! However, Babymouse has the same issues as before, but now in a larger scale. This time she is the director of a film for the film club, but of course, nothing works the way she envisioned. Laughs and problems only Babymouse could have will entertain fans from beginning to end. The novel/graphic format format will appeal to readers who love Babymouse but are also ready for a longer book.

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The Perfect Score

“Award-winning author Rob Buyea offers a new series of unforgettable characters in The Perfect Score. Kid-friendly and full of heart, this new series is further evidence of Buyea’s masterful understanding of middle schoolers, a reputation first established with his popular Mr. Terupt series.”From Random House Children’s Books:

The Perfect Score is told through the voices of five students in 6th grade. Gavin loves football, but has never done so well in school, Randi is a gymnast who is trying to cope with her zealous mother, Natalie thinks like she is already an attorney, Scott who is almost always a hot-mess, and Trevor who really doesn’t like school, but would rather be there than at home. While they are all different, they share their universal dislike for the CBA standardized tests coming up.
The book is told in a short chapter — switching voices technique similar to Buyea’s previous Mr. Terupt books.  I personally yearned for a little more emotional connection with the characters. However, for Bob Buyea and realistic/school fiction fans, I think it will be a hit. A great choice for upper elementary or middle school students. 4/5 star rating

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*I was given a review copy by Random House Children’s Books in exchange for an honest review.

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Aphrodite the Diva Book Trailer

I love creativity! To me, creativity is the inside shining out. When students are creative, we see a different side to them that may not come out during everyday classroom assignments. Recently one girl and her actor  demonstrated their creativity in their quarterly class book report.

Students can chose how they want to report out on the book they read. In this case this student decided to make a live action book trailer with a few of her friends. When I saw it, I immediately asked all parents if I could publish the book trailer. It’s creative and fun. It’s a fabulous advertisement for Aphrodite and the Diva by Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams. The book trailer will convince some students to read this book.

After I published the trailer, I tweeted out the link and look who responded!

This just goes to show that students can have their voice heard with really positive results.

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Author Amazes Students

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Iain Reading, author of The Dragon of the Month Club and the Kittyhawk series visited our school this week for a much anticipated visit with our 5th grade students.

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He talked to the students about the power of ideas and books. As a writer you never know where an idea might take you. He explained what he meant with the story of how he thought of the idea for The Dragon of the Month Club. It started with something he saw on television when a character on an English show  received a Sausage of the Month gift as a joke. Thinking about the concept, made him wonder the question, “what if there was a dragon of the month club?” Within two years, his book was written, published and he was talking to us at our school!

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His visit was the direct result of some 5th grade students who inspired by the book, created their own dragons.I wrote about the experience in the post When Magic Happens. The last paragraph of the post read:

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I didn’t know what kind of doors those words would open at the time. Like Iain, as a writer you just don’t know the path you might be led down. In our case, that post was shared on social media and Mary Grigg, the  5th grade teacher who had been reading his book to her students, tracked down Iain’s contact information and shared the link with him.

When he wrote to us and asked if he could visit our school we were thrilled! I can assure you when Mary and I  read our  emails, we had a fabulous day!

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What we didn’t expect is how he would spoil us when he came all the way from Holland! Talk about a treat! In addition to telling us about his writing process, and sharing the pain of rejection letter, he brought very special give aways. Everyone received a bracelet, pin and Dragon of the month card. He also gave away dragon pendants.

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Then 20 students received a special Cougar Ridge edition of his book. There are special “cookies” throughout the book that refer to Bellevue and our school, as well as a custom cover.

dsc04490Iain and Ms. Grigg had fun trying to find the special places in the book that are customized!

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When his presentation was over, each lucky student had their copy autographed by Iain.

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Iain explained that after his visit he was going to Vancouver to the Comic Con Convention where he always has a wishing tree. To get the tree started, each student could write a wish and put it on the tree. It would then be on display at the convention for others to add on to it.

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While all these details were absolutely fantastic, the ultimate part of the day, was a special lunch Iain shared with a small group of students. The five girls who made the original dragons, plus others who applied to have lunch with him shared an extended visit where they had the chance to ask questions about the book in more detail. One of the girls joined us via Skype from her new school. Everyone laughed and talked about their favorite dragons, plots twists and when the sequel would be available.

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We had a “Dragon” dessert, which we showed our friend on Skype before we cut into it! Two of the girls had also made a Candy Dragon which Iain took with him to Canada for the Comic Con Convention!

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Then Iain shared the ultimate surprise. He brought out five custom copies of the Dragon of the Month Club with the girls’ dragons on the cover! Screams and cries filled the air as the girls scanned the pages looking for their names hidden inside the book!

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I’ve had a lot of author visits, but I have to say, this one certainly had a huge impact on a lot of children at our school. From all of the 5th graders and their teachers, we shout a loud and boisterous, Thank you Iain! You are the best!

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Iain’s book The Dragon of the Month Club, as well as The Kitty Hawk mystery series are available through Amazon in book and Kindle versions.

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When Magic Happens

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I am pretty sure that I was born to be a librarian. I read at all hours of the day and night. I can’t eat breakfast without reading something to keep me company. I read on vacation in really peculiar places.

I love also teaching, but we all know that even though you may have a dream job, every day in the classroom isn’t a perfect day. Some days are trickier than others. When you step through the front doors of the school, you can never be sure of what kind of day it will be. Will it be good, okay, or one of those you need to forget?

Today was one of those days. No, not the bad one. The kind where you sit back, smile, and pinch yourself that you are lucky to be a teacher. The magical kind of day.

The day actually started a couple weeks ago when one of the teachers at school walked in the library and asked if I had any recommendations for a read aloud for her class. She was hoping to start the year with fantasy, but didn’t want anything super long.

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It just so happened that I had just finished reading The Dragon of the Month Club by Iain Reading. I handed the book over, with a brief overview and off she went. Periodically I would see her in the hall and she updated me on the book. Each time I heard the comments, my day would get a little brighter. Her students were LOVING it! I was thrilled that my suggestion was working out so perfectly. That, however, is not my story.

My story, my magical story happened this afternoon at about 1:30 in the afternoon. I was knee-deep in paperwork and trying to make sense of the mess that was my office when a group of girls ran in yelling, “Mrs. Hembree, Mrs. Hembree, you’ve got to come see our dragon!”

I stepped out of the room to see a group of giggling and ever so proud girls. They were tumbling their words over each other in their excitement to show me what they had made. In their hands was a brown cardboard dragon. More specifically, it was a Dell Technology Dragon made from the left over cardboard they found outside the computer lab. It had a wavy long tail with a wide point at the end. The mouth opened and closed. The body was made from the packing material covered with a wide set of wings.

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Inspired by the dragons in the book, they had decided to create their own Dragon of the Month. The magic of the story for me at least was to see a group of girls, take a book they so clearly love and make something original and creative. They made a made project, and NOBODY asked them to! It wasn’t a homework assignment. It wasn’t something they had to make for a book project. This was a dragon born from love of reading, a bunch of trash cardboard, and a big slice of creativity!

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I quickly grabbed my cell phone and captured photos of the designers and their Technology Dragon. I sent them back to their after school class and got back to work on my mess with a big smile on my face.

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At 4:00, I was still there (although the mess was manageable now) when the girls ran back inside the library again. This time, the dragon was decorated with brightly colored duct tape on the wings and a silvery tape for the body. They found hot pink tape for the tongue and while they only found one wiggly eye, they figured out how to craft another one that looked almost the same. This Dell Technology Dragon had bloomed into a vibrancy all its own. The girls were on cloud 9 too. They showed me the hand signals they created for the dragon (something from the book). They told me about their plans to write to the author and tell him about their dragon.

As they left the room, I was given the responsibility of Dragon-sitting for the evening. In the morning they would be back to bring the dragon to their classroom and show their teacher.

I have a feeling that she is going to have a magical day tomorrow…

iainI hope too, if Iain Reading ever reads this post and finds out how special these students think his book is, that he too will have a magical day as well.

This is the power of books. They can bring the magic out of students in ways you would never believe could happen.

 

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Advertising Books Thru Media

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Since 2012, my 4th grade students have created book trailers for favorite novels.  In the past four years these student trailers have had thousands of views. Video is an amazing way to promote reading and advertise fabulous books to other students.

We’ve also had the ability to connect with students around the world. For the past two years, we’ve partnered with Angels Soriano in Valencia, Spain. This year her students made hand-drawn book trailers of local fairy tales in their native Catalan language. You can view them here.

Here are the latest book trailers we have published. The students made them on Photostory3, which is a Windows 7 program for the PC. I hope they inspire you to go to your local library this summer and check out these books for some fun summer reading!

Dragon of the Red Dawn by Mary Pope Osborne

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City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau

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People of Sparks by Jeanne DuPrau

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Wonder by RJ Palacio

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Nest by Esther Ehrlich

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A Dog’s Way Home  by Bobbie Pyron

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If you would like to read more about the trailers we have completed in the past with Angels Soriano, this Sway showcases our program in the 2014-15 school year. You can also find our complete list of book trailers at the top of this website on the Book Trailers tab.

 

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A Night Divided

 

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Gerta went to bed Saturday night, but woke up the next morning with a grim sight outside her window. A barbed wire wall divided her city in half. The realization stunned her as she remembered her father and brother were on the other side of the wall. How would they come home to Gerta, her mom and brother? Why would anyone want to build a wall in the middle of her beloved city? What was going to happen to her family?

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The Berlin Wall is the topic of Jennifer Nielsen’s new middle grade historical fiction book, A Night Divided. The story is set in 1961 when the city of Berlin was separated in half by a wall that would last for the next 28 years. This concrete wall is considered by many to be the symbol of the Cold stemming the mass defection of citizens from communist East Germany to the west.

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The book is well researched and brought back memories of one of the most frightening days of my life.  I was 18 years old and an American Field Service exchange student visiting Berlin with other members in my group. West Berlin was a vibrant city with museums, shopping and discos. Bright neon lights lit the downtown at night. We didn’t have a bored moment as we tried to experience all that West Berlin offered. This video shows what life was like in West Berlin at that time.

The organizers of our trip also wanted us to experience the other side of Berlin behind the huge wall that divided the city. Being the naïve and self-absorbed teenagers we were, few of us realized the history lesson we were about to learn.

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We crossed at Checkpoint Charlie, the main crossing area for westerners. It was a particularly intimidating experience as we had to give up our passports, sit in a room and then wait for our number to be called. These were the days before modern airport security checks, so being so screened with such severity was frightening to us. The freedom I took for granted as an American suddenly had new meaning.

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Entering East Berlin was like stepping back 30 years into postwar Germany. I’ll never forget the images of gray that permeated the city. Gray concrete buildings. Gray streets. Gray cars. Drab clothing on people who seemed to carry defeat on their shoulders. It was common to see World War II bombed buildings still empty and never re-built. It was like going from technicolor to black and white.

Courtesy Britannica Images

Courtesy Britannica Images

All of us had the opportunity to have lunch with an East German family. Mine shared how their family had been divided by the wall and they had no idea when they would see their loved ones again. After being nearly hit by a car who tried to hit me and a friend as we walked on the sidewalk, I wanted out…..now! It took some convincing, but we postponed our return a couple hours and went to an East German play. I appreciated seeing communism hadn’t completely squelched the arts. Still, like the rest of the group, I couldn’t leave fast enough. We made it back before the midnight deadline and embraced the freedom afforded to us because we were American.

A Night Divided brought back all of these memories. After hearing Jennifer Nielsen talk her process in bringing this part of history to life, I felt compelled to make a trailer for her book. The images and words were bubbling inside me needing to be released. In the weeks since, my students and I have had many lively conversations about the wall and this part of history few westerners talk about anymore. Usually historical fiction is not the genre students clamor to read. Yet the 20 hold slips of students who want to check out this book from our library tell me that Jennifer got it right. Find A Night Divided at your local library or favorite bookstore. Recommended for ages 9+ Visit Jennifer Nielsen’s website and find out more about this and other books she has written.

 

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A Skype Visit with Dan Gemeinhart

coverWe are huge fans of the Wenatchee, Washington based author and school librarian Dan Gemeinhart and his first novel The Honest Truth. In late February Josa and his Mom gave me a copy of The Honest Truth with the message,“You have to read it Julie. Josa and I loved it. We think you will too.” So, I took it home and put it to the top of my book pile.

That was the beginning of our love fest with this book. I wrote a review and published it in early March. I couldn’t put the story out of my mind and it didn’t take long until I made a book trailer to show my students. It never gets old when an author tells you they like a book trailer you have made for them. He even embedded it on his website . Now our four copies are always checked out with a long list of fans waiting not-so-patiently for their turn. It’s become the norm to hear the students talking about the book and discussing their favorite parts. So say we are avid fans is probably an understatement.

When I asked Dan if he could Skype with us,  he willingly agreed. The students wrote down their questions on the white board so they could reference them during our Skype session. We had about a dozen students give up their recess to talk with Dan virtually.

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We learned that The Honest Truth is not a true story, but he did know someone who had cancer and that influenced his story.  He dreamed of being an author from second grade, but it’s only been in the last eight or nine years that he got serious about writing. He wrote four books before this one, but was rejected 99 times! The Honest Truth was his 100th submission to a publisher and it was accepted immediately. Thank you Scholastic Publishing! Apparently 100 is his lucky number. He emphasized that you have to keep trying to achieve your goals, and not stop because you fail once or twice. Use what you learned and move forward. Don’t give up and believe in yourself.

He and the students talked about their favorite characters. He did share that Beau and Wesley are his favorites in. He spoke about the importance of naming characters in a story and how the name Beau (the dog) came to him immediately. It’s not always like that, and right now he’s wondering if he has found the right name for the horse in his next book.

His new book Some Kind of Courage is coming out next winter, but it is not a sequel to The Honest Truth. The book is set in Washington again, but in the late 1890’s. It sounds like it’s a mixture of western realism, historical fiction and adventure.

Twenty minutes flew by in record time. After we finished the call, the students were so excited about their visit. They couldn’t believe they had just had the chance to talk virtually with a REAL author! Many told me they prefer Skype author visits over large in-person author visits because they are  so much more personal. The conversation evolves naturally and is controlled primarily by the students. I love how technology can bring the world into our library! Thank you Dan!

 

 

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