Meet the Real Ivan

Everyone at our school knows that I am a little bit crazy about the book,

The One and Only Ivan!

They know that the highlight of our school year was the day

Katherine Applegate, Julia and Anne visited our school!

I have given this particular book to my family, friends and blogging buddies as far away as Australia.

Fast forward to July 2012!

I am writing this post today in green, because I am green with envy!


 Because the Super-Librarian Mr. Schu visited the real  Ivan yesterday at Zoo Atlanta.

Used with permission from John Schu

He and  Donna, another librarian,  are on their annual summer reading trip. This year they called it “Let’s Go South 12” and they decided to drive to Atlanta, Georgia to visit the real Ivan in person! I am very envious of their experience! I have never been to Georgia and to see Ivan up close would be pretty awesome. He has given me permission to share these photos with you.

The traveling plush Ivan got to meet the real Ivan too!

Used with permission from John Schu

 How could a trip like this be any better that that? By getting the real Ivan’s autograph!

Used with permission from John Schu

Congratulations Mr. Schu for visiting Zoo Atlanta and sharing your photos with us! You can follow the other places they visit on the Let’s Go South 12 blog. You can also read more on Mr. Schu’s blog Watch. Connect. Read. He’ll be writing in greater detail about his visit with Ivan.

In the meantime, I am getting ready for my trip next week to the  Microsoft Partners in Learning US Forum to showcase our Kid Lit Movies project. I’m also bringing Ivan, the inspiration for our book trailer project. Check back next week for updates and photos on this incredible experience! Did you know our student book trailers have had over 6,700 views now from people in 150 different countries? How’s that for incredible?


How did seeing the real Ivan make you feel?

Is there a place you would like to visit because of a book you read?

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

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.


Have you ever met an author in person before?

What is your “what if” story idea?

Do you have a special animal story?


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Lunch with Katherine Applegate Winners

Twenty five entries!

8 winners!

We have eight students who will be having a special private lunch with Katherine Applegate, author of The One and Only Ivan, and me on Monday, April 16th!

In addition, courtesy of our school PTSA, each student will receive a copy of The One and Only Ivan, which Katherine will sign when she is at lunch with us!

All of the entries were fabulous and I could quickly see that our students spent a lot of time thinking about what they would write on their lunch application.

Because The One and Only Ivan is an intermediate book and the reason Katherine Applegate is coming, entries were limited to grades 3-6, plus students in Mrs. Adair’s combo class.

There were two portions to the application. Part one was a Persuasive Essay where students had 100 words to convince me:

Why should you be selected to have lunch with Katherine Applegate?

The second part consisted of writing five questions the student would like to ask Katherine during our reading and writing conversation at lunch.

If you could ask her some questions, what would they be?

 Do your research, what do you want to know more about? 

What became clear to me from reading these applications is that we have a lot of students who adore Katherine Applegate’s books and we have some students who already know they want to be writers! So, drum rolls please… are our winners!

Custom Glitter Text

If you have not had a chance to read The One and Only Ivan, we will have books on pre-order April 9 – 13th. Forms will be coming home Monday with students in grades 3-6. Katherine Applegate will be signing books after her classes visits and lunch. then she will be heading to Parkplace Books for a visit with some other students and an evening author show!

You can also view my book trailer on The One and Only Ivan as a teaser!

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

How to Hug a Porcupine


It’s easy to hug dogs or cats or bunnies or goats. But how to you hug a porcupine! Author, Laurie Isop, author of How Do You Hug a Porcupine visited our school for World Read Aloud Day to help us find out! This was also the day we dressed up as favorite book characters!

 Laurie presented to the kindergarten – second grade classes. First she talked to them about porcupines and their quills.

They even had a chance to touch a giant quill from an African porcupine.




She explained that after she won the Cheerios -Spoonful of Stories Award last year, Cheerios put a small paperback copy of her book in both English and Spanish in every single Cheerios box! Then her publisher Simon & Schuster published the book in the hardcover version. You can read about this prize here.

Then she treated the students to a reading of her book.

We had a special raffle and 4 students won one of the paperback copies and one student won a porcupine puppet.



Following her presentation, students who purchased copies of her book stayed in the library and watched Laurie sign their book.

Laurie’s visit was courtesy of our local independent book store, ParkPlace Books in Kirkland! Thank you Park Place!

 When Laurie is not writing books, she and her husband Paul run a wedding photography business. All of the photos for this blog post were furnished by Paul Isop of Studio 6.

If you are wondering who the winner is for this year’s Cheerios contest, look in the cereal aisle of your local grocery store! Josh gave me a sneak peek on what he found this weekend.

What authors have you met at your school?
What do you think about Cheerios offering books in cereal boxes?
If you could have any author visit, who would it be?
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Our Readers Meet Rick Riordan

Some of our current and former Bulldog Readers had the opportunity of their lives on Sunday, when they met the author Rick Riordan, author of the Percy Jackson and the new Heroes of Olympus series! He has over 30 million books in print and his books have been translated into over 37 languages in 36 countries.

Elizabeth, Julia and Bridget attend the book signing event in Olympia.

 “The gods may live on Mt. Olympus, but they vacation in Olympia,” declares the tagline of the winning proposal by the Tumwater Timberland Library.

 Rick Riordan’s visit to Olympia was part of a week long tour promoting the second book, Son of Neptune, launch in the Heroes of Olympus series. He only made seven stops in the US and Canada on his book tour.


Hundreds of proposals were submitted to Disney Publishing Worldwide for the Olympia Week contest. The proposal title “Poseidon’s Fish Market” developed and written by Joella Peterson, was chosen for its creative ideas in planning activities to celebrate the series and love of reading.

Riordan arrived by yacht and then spoke to his audience before signing books. The audience members could participate in any of the activity booths available while they waited for their time to meet Mr. Riordan.

Rick Riordan's arrival to Olympia, WA.

 Elizabeth, Julia and Bridget were able to make it down to Olympia to be part of this amazing day. They got their books signed and one for our library too!

It's book signing time! That one is going in the library!

 On Monday, I had a chance to get Julia’s thoughts about here experience meeting Mr. Riordan.

 How did you find out about Rick Riordan’s visit to Olympia?

How I found out about Rick Riordan’s visit to Olympia was from one of my best friends, Elizabeth. Her aunt, Linda, works at the Tumwater Timberlake Library; the library that sponsored this event. The event was held at the Port of Olympia and was called Poseidon’s Fish Market.

 How did you get the tickets?

My mom and dad drove us to Tumwater Library a week ago where we got the tickets. I was kind of let down when I was told I was the 750th person to get their book, but at the event, I got my books signed within an hour!

What was it like? Tell us about the experience there? Lots of people? Did you listen to him talk?

The event was crowded. At first, I was one of about a hundred people. In the next 45 minutes, I was probably one of two thousand people. In was fun in the beginning though. Elizabeth was working at the Fish Facts and Barnacle Bubbles station and I helped her with the crosswords and word searches that kids got to fill out. The prizes for completing the word search was either a poster of The Son of Neptune or a golden drachma key chain. Other booths were about fishing, face-painting, and information about the sea’s environment. When Rick Riordan arrived by yacht, I got pictures of him coming off the boat, he and his family were waving from the boat. He got off, answered questions about his latest book and then went to his book-signing booth.

 What were the best parts of the experience?

The best parts about “Poseidon’s Fish Market” were Rick Riordan arriving, because the crowd suddenly went quiet when they saw him and then the kids and parents started screaming their guts out. Also, finding out about the books he’s planning to write in the future. The third book in the Kane Chronicles is coming out in May 2012 and then Rick Riordan is planning to write a series about Norse mythology after he completes the Heroes of Olympus series.

Bridget also filmed Rick Riordan’s entire talk in Olympia! If you wish you had been there, but couldn’t go, here is the next best thing!


We now have two copies of Son of Neptune in our Bulldog Library. Stop by and put a reserve slip in to reserve your place in line to read it!

If you want to learn more about Rick Riordan and his books, visit his website

Many thanks to Bridget, Julia, and their parents, Elizabeth and to the Timberland Regional Library for sharing their photos, film,  and background information for this blog post.


Have you ever been to a book signing?
Who would you like to meet?
Please leave us a comment and let us know!
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Hometown Author Returns to her Roots

Mrs. Hovis remembers her. Mrs. Stoghill remembers hearing her name. Mrs. Stanphill was her cooperating teacher and taught her her how to teach when she was just entering the profession 24 years ago!

Who do they remember? Ann Haywood Leal, author of Also Known as Harper and A Finders Keeper’s Place.


Ann Haywood Leal autographs her latest book.

Mrs. Leal grew up in the Seattle area. Home was Auburn, Washington and Lake Tapps was her summer playground. She visited the 5th and 6th grade Bulldog Readers this week when she came home to the west coast to visit and promote her latest book A Finders Keeper’s Place. She shared photos and stories of her childhood and route to literary success.

Like most authors, she didn’t achieve success easily.After writing her first book in elementary school, she sent it off to a publishing house, when Judy Blume, her idol urged her to in a letter. The rejection letter she received soon after was one of many she received over the years, but it never keep her from writing.

One of my favorite stories Ann told was how she found a special manuscript box which was filled with stories and ideas written by a family member who had long since passed away.  This woman lived her life raising a family on a dairy farm, but spent her spare moments writing adventure stories. Some of her ideas were on paper, and many others were written on whatever scrap of paper she had available to her. The back of a dairy receipt or ripped slip of paper–each held a handwritten sentence, paragraph or idea for a story forming in her imagination.

Ann realized she was not the first author in her family. She was also very lucky to have a family who believed in her talent from a very young age.  Her mother kept her notes and her stories as a little girl- even her apology notes with misspelled words and cross outs from when she got in trouble!

Now Ann is a published author and teacher. She teaches first grade in Connecticut and writes as much she can, which can’t be easy when you have two full-time jobs!  She has a support group of writer friends who help her with every step and paragraph along the way. These are women who are not afraid to say, “No Ann, Harper wouldn’t say that or do that. Fix it!”

FindersKeepersAnd fix it, she does. Bringing a manuscript from A Finders Keeper’s Place, Ann showed the kids what it’s like to get her novel back from her publisher. Marks in one color from one person, marks in a different color from an editor. Sticky notes that are not allowed to be removed from a page. These are the realities of revising for an author.

But where do the ideas come from? How does a woman who teaches first grade and lives a middle-class life write realistic fiction novels about the harsh realities of homelessness or the cruelty of mental illness? Ann’s novels are not cutesy books about love-torn teenagers. Her novels are real. Perhaps too real for some readers.

Yet when everything is awful and the pain seems too cutting, Ann brings a sliver of hope into her books. She finds a way to introduce the idea that while maybe life right now may be really, really bad—it’s a moment in time. There is always hope. The possibility for things to get better, change and improve is always there.

Still where do those ideas come from? 

Some come from her life. We all have our realities of life that others may not know about. Other ideas come from newspaper articles,  places she’s been or seen. Take a fenced in and abandoned local swimming pool filled with algae covered rain water –a place she has seen–and twist and turn it. Suddenly it’s the place Harper discovers with her new friends in Also Known as Harper.harper

Go to the grocery store and see a young boy outside of the store staring at a station wagon pulling away with his family inside, while leaving him on the sidewalk, and you have a scene from A Finders Keeper’s Place.  Her books are the sum of her experiences, with a mixture of fiction thrown in.

So, readers and would be writers, what is her lesson to you? Save everything! Don’t throw away your first stories or silly notes you wrote. Save your doodles and beginning attempts at drawing. They are your beginning. They are the first rungs of your writing ladder.

 Someday, perhaps, you will look back at them, like Ann has done and be able to say, “I knew when I was in elementary school that I would be a writer, just like Ann Haywood Leal.”

Ann’s books are best for readers ages 9 and up.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Our Babymouse Day!

Yesterday was quite a day with our guest author Matt Holm!  If you aren’t familiar with the Babymouse books, they are graphic novels, which are like comic books, but much longer. They are also funny – really, really funny! Okay, not all graphic novels are funny, but the Babymouse ones are!

Matt co-authors the books with his sister Jenni. She writes most of the dialog and he illustrates. He explained how every book starts with a storyboard, like they do for movies. The storyboard is their book map – it helps them flesh out the details of the plot, illustrations and dialog.

Jenni and Matt don’t live near one another, so they work separately and then email their drafts back and forth. It takes a lot of revisions before it gets to the printing stage! One book took 14 revisions before it was right! Most of their books take about a year to complete.

After the background presentation, some kids had the chance to suggest new situations for Babymouse and come others were involved in a Babymouse “draw-off”! Who could draw Babymouse fast like Matt? We have some awesome Bulldog Illustrators!

A special huge shout out to the Bulldog PTSA for providing funding so Matt could visit our school and to Parkplace Books for supplying books for kids to buy! Thank you!!!


What is your favorite Babymouse book?

What plot suggestions do you have for Babymouse?

I think she needs to be on America’s Next Top Mouse-Model!

Leave us a comment and let us know what you think!

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Matt Holm Visits on Wednesday


The Bulldog Readers will host the author Matthew Holm on Wednesday for two presentations for the 3rd-6th grade students. Matthew and his sister Jennifer co-author the wildly popular and PINK graphic novel series Babymouse.


Babymouse is a very funny mouse who seems to have loads of trouble as she makes her way through elementary school. The Babymouse series has won many awards including the Gryphon Award in 2006 and the ALA Notable Children’s Book Award.


However, the best award a children’s book can earn is a vote from KIDS! Babymouse is the winner of multiple Children’s Choice Awards and is nominated again for the 2011 award. Babymouse # 12: Burns Rubber is one of the choices for the 3rd-4th grade book of the year. Only children can vote for this award at the following website: until April 29, 2011.

Babymouse has her own Facebook Fan page I Heart Babymouse!  at She even has her own song! The song, “This Is Babymouse!” was written and produced by Brooklyn-based drummer and composer Marty Beller, with lyrics by Matt Holm and vocals sung by Matt and Jenni. 


We have been preparing for Matt’s visit by reading some of the Babymouse books together and in small groups. We have learned some important Babymouse facts.

  • Babymouse seems to get herself in lots of trouble
  • Felicia Furrypaws loves to torment Babymouse
  • Babymouse loves to daydream
  • Babymouse has a very cranky locker
  • Her best friend is Wilson, a weasel 
  • Babymouse books have a different levels of humor
  • Mrs. Hembree laughs at different parts than the kids

We are looking forward to Matt’s presentation on Wednesday and learning more about this really fun series. Matt’s books are for sale and he will be signing purchased books on Wednesday! See Mrs. Hembree for details.

Until Wednesday, here is a short video with information directly from Jennifer and Matt about their book series, Babymouse! Click on the link to view!


Which one of the Babymouse books is your favorite?

Have you ever met Matt or Jenni Holm?

Tell us about it!




Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Read Across America Day March 2nd

DSC_0680To celebrate Read Across America day, Parkplace Books sponsored  a wonderful guest author visit by Samantha Vamos, author of Before You Were Here, Mi Amor and The Cazuela that the Farm Maiden Stirred.
Students in kindergarten through second grade came to the library to listen to Samantha read her books and talk about what her life is like now as a writer. After her presentation, Samantha autographed copies of her books, including two for our library.
 The Cazuela That the Farm Maiden Stirred is Samantha’s latest book.cazuela It is illustrated by the Mexican artist Rafael Lopez. Together they have crafted a wonderful bilingual tale about five farm animals, their farmer and a farm girl who wants to make some Arroz con Leche.
Written in the style of “The House that Jack Built” Samantha’s book is already generating lots of positive press. A Kirkus Starred review and on Tuesday a rave raview from School Library Journal stating, “The artistry of this book makes it a must buy for all libraries.”


Many children had the chance to hold special Spanish word cards in front of the group as she read Cazuela.
The illustrator Rafael Lopez brings his Mexican surrealism to all his work. In 2010 he won the Pura Belpre Illustrator Award for his illustrations of Pat Mora’s Book Fiesta.
The United States Postal Service commissioned his work for a series of postal stamps on celebrated Latino music legends. Oprah Winfrey also hired him to paint three paintings for her school in South Africa.
 Samantha’s first book, Before You Were Here, Mi Amor is a colorful bilingual children’s picture book about the family time before one is born and the baby’s arrival into their new family.
 mi amorIt won the 2010 Washington State Book Award and was featured as “Best for Babies” in the 2009 Parent’s Magazine. Animator and artist Santiago Cohen applies his brightly colored folk-art style to this Latino story.
Samantha’s website provides book trailers, activity pages for children and discussion guides as well as more information about her life. Visit 
 More information about artist Rafael Lopez can be found at 
Read about Santiago Cohen at
Print Friendly, PDF & Email