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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The Sweetness of Books

Happy Summer Vacation!

The Bulldog Readers have been sending in their photos showing what fun it can be to read in the summer! Maybe their choices will lure you to the library this summer.

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I hope you are having a great vacation! I am having a great time on the east coast visiting my family. On Friday we went to New York City and I saw the New York Public Library. Yesterday we went to the Bronx Zoo. Don’t forget, you can be included on the blog. Just have your adult family member email me the picture.
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Simple and easy!
Happy Reading!
Mrs. Hembree

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Real Boy Book Trailer Debut

Have you read The Real Boy yet?

Imagine a story that combines fantasy + fairy tales +cats +adventure + wizards + magic + friendship into one magical  middle grade fantasy novel by Anne Ursu. Like a favorite wool cloak, Real Boy will wrap you inside a wondrous tale of magic and friendship. It is a joyful, amazing story that will surprise you over and over by the author of Breadcrumbs.

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Since early October blogs around the kidlitosphere have been celebrating THE REAL BOY with reviews, giveaways, interviews, and posts from author Anne Ursu, illustrator Erin McGuire and editor Jordan Brown. In this last stop of the blog tour, we debut our book trailer THE REAL BOY.


 
This post is a part of The Real Boy blog tour hosted by Walden Press Books. If you would like to read previous blog posts, check out the itinerary below.
THE REAL BOY BLOG TOUR:

Monday, 9/30 – Maria’s Melange – Maria’s Take on The Real Boy + Giveaway
Tuesday, 10/1 – There’s a Book – Danielle’s Take on The Real Boy + Giveaway
Wednesday, 10/2 – sharpread – Colby Interviews Anne
Thursday, 10/3 – Novel Sounds – Elena’s Take on The Real Boy + Giveaway
Friday, 10/4 – Word Spelunking – Aeicha Interviews Anne
Saturday, 10/5 – The Hiding Spot – Sara’s Take on The Real Boy + Giveaway
Sunday, 10/6 – The Brain Lair – Kathy’s Take on The Real Boy + Giveaway
Monday, 10/7 – Read, Write, Reflect – Anne Talks Oscar with Katherine
Tuesday, 10/8 – Librarian’s Quest – Margie’s Take on The Real Boy + Giveaway
Wednesday, 10/9 – Buried in Books – Heather’s Take on The Real Boy + Giveaway
Thursday, 10/10 – The Book Monsters – Kristen’s Take on The Real Boy + Giveaway
Friday, 10/11 – Cari’s Book Blog – Cari’s Take on The Real Boy + An Interview with Anne
Saturday, 10/12 – Unleashing Readers – Kellee Interviews Illustrator Erin McGuire
Sunday, 10/13 – Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers – Gina’s Take on The Real Boy + Giveaway
Monday, 10/14 – Heise Reads and Recommends – Editor Jordan Brown Interviews Anne
Tuesday, 10/15 – Bulldog Readers Blog – The Bulldog Readers Debut Their Book Trailer
 
And here are all the blogs featuring exclusive artwork from THE REAL BOY.
 
EXCLUSIVE ARTWORK REVEALS
 
You can find THE REAL BOY at your local school,  public library, or your favorite book store today!

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book reviews

 

Looking for a good book?

The summer is winding down, but reading sure isn’t! Check out the latest middle grade books I’ve been reading.

 

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An honest betrayal of sixth grade girls, pressures of family expectations, what it’s like to be Chinese/American and dealing with life as a whole. The main character is bullied by another girl at school and has to deal with a family who wants her to spend every Saturday at Chinese school, when she would rather be at basketball practice.

 

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Like a favorite wool cloak, Real Boy will wrap you inside a wondrous tale of magic and friendship. A joyful, amazing story that will surprise you over and over. A must read by the author of Breadcrumbs.

 

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Ten year old Sugar lives on the sugar cane plantation in the years following the end of the Civil War. She’s free, but that doesn’t mean she can play and run free like the white children. She’s a worker just like the adults, planting, weeding and cutting the sugar cane. When the owner of the plantation brings in some Chinese workers, sugar finds herself in the middle of the worker racial divide.

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Piper’s dad disappeared and is presumed to have died four years ago in a plane crash over the Atlantic. Still, ten year old Piper holds out hope that one day her Daddy will walk through the front door declaring, “Piper, I’m home.” When her mom falls in love with Ben and they decide to get married, Piper’s life starts careening out of control. Can she be loyal to her dad and accept this new situation too?

 

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Mom has left for New Orleans because she can’t handle Benny’s dad anymore. Now Benny is stuck at home alone to deal with the mess that is his dad – a hoarder with a big problem. Pizza boxes and dirty dishes fill the kitchen, a motorcycle is being restored in the living room and every space is filled with Dad’s stuff. Cardboard covers the windows so nobody can see what’s inside, including the rats who have moved in. When the town wins the America’s Most Charming Small Town Contest, the townspeople threaten to clean up the house. Benny is torn between loving his dad, missing his mom, and wishing for a life a little less chaotic.

 

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I admit it – I am almost scared to hand out this book fearing it will give kids new ideas on how to torment teachers! Imagine walking into homeroom only to find it’s been filled with ball-pit balls or finding the gym is covered with thousands of crickets. Yikes! Pickle is a hilarious story about Ben who begins a “prank- club” but hides the real purpose of the club behind the pickle-making cover.

I hope you are finding some fun books to read this summer. You can still sending photos too! I’ll be in the library starting to set it up starting tomorrow. A couple folks got a sneak peek!

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The Fun Days of Summer

Is reading dangerous?

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Luckily, Ema used lots of safety equipment to keep her free from injuries while she was reading! In her hands is book 5 from the How to Train Your Dragon series by the British author Cressida Cowell. If you like her books, or saw the movie and want to find out about her books, visit her website: http://www.howtotrainyourdragonbooks.com/  She has games, drawing competitions, videos, e-cards and all sorts of other fun stuff to do. There’s also a link to a  Cressida Cowell YouTube video where she talks about how the stories are somewhat autobiographical! Imagine that! Check it out and you’ll see for yourself.

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Mrs. Adair recently took a trip to Washington, DC, our nation’s capital where she visited many historical sites, including the Lincoln Memorial. Abraham Lincoln, the president who always wore a black top hat believed that all men are created equal, one of the founding principles of our country. Through his hard work, he was able to save the union and ended the Civil War. His legacy is forever remembered in this memorial. However, you don’t have to travel to Washington DC, to see it. You can visit virtually from the comfort of your home through this  Lincoln Memorial Interactive tour.

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Who wants to play? Josa is with the “Puddle Jumpers” bronze sculpture by Glenna Goodacre. It would be hard to resist playing with these children in the park! You can learn more about this sculpture and others at Marina Art.

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School begins in less than a month. I hope you are reading, logging your minutes, taking photos of you reading, and getting those prizes at KCLS just like Pakal and Ulises!

 

 

 

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A Book Review from Denmark

We have a special treat today! A few weeks ago three of our former students stopped by to visit with their parents. They were here on vacation and were visiting their former teachers and friends in the Seattle area.

PebbleGo Europe Kids Map Denmark is the country north of Germany.

All of three students love to read! Lucily for them, I had just come from the American Library Association mid-winter meeting with numerous Advanced Reading Copies (ARCs) of books. ARCs are copies of books that people read and review and check for errors before they are officially published. Think of them as preview copies.

It’s always fun to have a new book that nobody else has yet, so all three students went home with some new books to read for the flight back to Denmark. Mathias not only read his book, he sent us a review for the blog too!

Here is Mathias’ review of House of Secrets by Chris Columbus and Ned Vizzini. It will be officially released on April 23, 2013.

Setting: The story first takes place in Sea Cliff, San Francisco, then later in a mysterious world of adventure.

Characters: The Walker family is composed of five members.

Mr. and Mrs. Walker, were recently in a lawsuit because Mr. Walker, who is a doctor, had cut an eye into the back of his patient. They were sued by the family of the man, and used almost all their money to defend themselves.

Brendan Walker, the middle child, a computer geek and a quite smart kid. He is also very much into Lacrosse and his quick thinking saves them on several occasions.

Cordelia Walker is the oldest and smartest kid of the family. She is an avid reader and helped solve many of the problems the family were to face.

Eleanor Walker is the youngest and appears to be the most dumb. However she does show quite an appeal for helping and a very smart and quick brain, despite being dyslexic. She is also very much into horses.

Plot: A family of five are searching for a new house. Their real estate lady finds a nice house on the edge of Sea Cliff, a place known for it’s beautiful houses. At first the family is a bit worried that the house may not be as nice as the real estate lady says (their price range for houses is rather low) however they were all proved wrong. When they arrived it was a beautiful three story house, full of amazing furniture and stunning features that made the house almost seem too good to be true. This was made true when they heard the price. Their jaws dropped and they immediately decided to buy the house.

Soon after they bought the house strange things started happening. Brendan and Eleanor were seeing strange figures and shadows day after day. Brendan even thought that the statue which stood in the back had come alive and talked to him.

The next day something strange happened. First the old lady who says she lived next door comes by. Her name is Dahlia Kristoff, the relative of Denver Kristoff who used to live in this house. Brendan goes crazy on her, thinking she was the woman who had turned into the statue. After the old lady leaves the kids start doing some digging. Cordelia find out that according to a picture upstairs, she’s a 105 years old and missing a hand. Not long after the doorbell rings again. Thinking that the pizza has arrived, Mr. Walker goes over to the door and opens it. Outside stands Mrs. Dahlia again, and as soon as Mr. Walker opens the door, she steps in. Immediately she transforms. She is now bald and only a skeleton of herself. Her right hand is missing, just like Cordelia thought and she looked downright scary, especially with the brand new pair of skeletal wings that had just erupted from her back. Mrs. Walker started calling the police, but for a gust of wind that snatched up the phone and cracked it on a pedestal on the other side of the room. Then weird things start to happen. Dahlia Kristoff starts flying up, and every item currently in the vicinity start flying up. They form a vortex of flying items just zooming around the room. The two parents are knocked out by flying objects, but somehow the kids manage to stay conscious. Dahlia starts shouting about her long lost father’s (Denver Kristoff) reincarnation and suddenly everything goes black.

My Thoughts: I think this book is amazing. With all of the mystery happening in only the first instance of the story, it provides a great lead into the book. The book itself is astonishing. The idea of having an entire story based on the fusion of three books is downright fascinating. The different characters in this book are amazingly unique, in such ways that even you can’t see the events they’re going to make happen before they do. The things that happen from every angle, like betrayal, love and unexpected friendship just makes this book one of the best books I’ve ever read.

Thank you Mathias for this awesome book review! I can’t wait to buy a copy for the library in April when it comes out!

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Favorite Books of 2012

Have you ever read a book that you just couldn’t forget?

Did it make you laugh? Cry? Shout?

 Today’s post is about my favorite books from 2012. These are the standout books from a year of reading.  Even though I may have read them months ago, I still think about them and consider them book friends. When I see the cover, or think of a passage from the book, I get a smile on my face. Not all of these books were written in 2012, although most of them were. I am in the process of reading all the Newbery Medal winners, so one book was published years ago. All, except the young adult books are available in our library. I hope you will stop in and check them out!

Tomorrow the American Library Association will announce all of the Youth Media Awards at their Mid-Winter Conference here in Seattle. I will be at the press conference for the very first time!  I can’t wait to see what books won medal and honor awards. Above any other books, I have my fingers crossed for The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate and Wonder by RJ Palacio.

Here are my standouts from a year of reading!

Categories: Favorite Graphic Novels, Favorite Picture Books, Favorite Non-Fiction Picture Books,Favorite Middle Grade Novels, Favorite Young Adult Novels, Favorite Audio Books

So there you are…my favorites. Not all will win awards tomorrow at the ALA conference. However, they have already won a special award in my heart because each of these books has touched me in a very personal way. I’m looking forward to lots of reading in 2013 and seeing where my reading travels take me!

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Were any of these books favorites for you this year?

Is there a book I should have included?

Leave us a comment and let us know!

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The One and Only Katherine Applegate

Amazing, fabulous, wonderful, spectacular, superb! Those are only a few of the ways we could describe our visit with Katherine Applegate this week!

Katherine came with her daughter Julia, and HarperCollins editor, Anne Hoppe and gave us a presentation on her book The One and Only Ivan. Ivan is dedicated to Julia, and her name is also used for one of the main human characters in the book.

Katherine is the author, and co-author with NYT bestseller Michael Grant of over 150 books for children and young adults, including Animorphs, which has sold over 35 millions copies. In the library world, she is a ROCKSTAR, yet, a nicer, more humble author you could not meet.

In a fabulous presentation created by her 15 year old son Jake,Katherine led us through the story of Ivan, the “shopping mall gorilla,” who spent 27 years in the B & I shopping Mall in Tacoma, and the inspiration of her novel. After reading a newspaper article many years ago when Ivan’s future was being debated, Katherine learned about this silverback gorilla stuck inside a 14 x 14 cement cage.  She later saw a National Geographic documentary on urban gorillas that included Ivan’s history. “I couldn’t get this story out of my head,” she told us.

She told us she remembered Toni Morrison’s quote,

She did research through the years and even went to Tacoma to get more information. Yet, she knew his story would also have to be fictionalized. Stella, the older elephant and Bob, the dog didn’t really live with Ivan in real-life, and neither did Ruby, the baby elephant. These were the touches she added to his story to give it depth, poignancy and heroism.

Students also had a chance to ask Katherine questions where she let us know that her best advice for student writers is summed up in two words:

 what if ….

Put yourself in any situation, and ask yourself “what if” and you have the basis for a new story! It’s as simple as that! She also urged student writers to be proud of what they write. She spent many years as a ghost writer for some well known series like Sweet Valley High, or used pseudonyms before she took the plunge to write under her own name.

 

The culmination of the morning was lunch for eight lucky students, who spent an hour with Katherine, Anne and Julia talking about books, Ivan and her life as a writer.

We even had a special cake made for the occasion! I got the idea for this cake from Mr. Schu. You can visit his blog here.

Following lunch, Anne signed a book for each of the “Applegate Lunch Bunch” and had their picture taken with her.

Sadly, the morning came to an end and we waved Katherine, Julie and Anne goodbye! They we off to enjoy the day in Seattle and then return to Parkplace Books in Kirkland for another visit the following day with students at two other local schools.

If you live in the Seattle area, she will be at Elliott Bay books this afternoon, Wednesday, April 18th at 3pm doing another book signing!

We can’t thank you enough for visiting our school!  It was truly an honor and a day I will personally treasure close to my heart.

 Here is the special bulletin board we prepared especially for her visit.

 Anne Hoppe, editor for The One and Only Ivan visits with Katherine and Julia.

 Katherine with Mrs. Hembree and her husband. Mr. Hembree remembered visiting Ivan in Tacoma when he was a child.

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Have you ever met an author in person before?

What is your “what if” story idea?

Do you have a special animal story?

 

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